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Philosophy professor Christina 
Sommers has exposed a disturbing 
development: how a group of zealots, 
claiming to speak for all women, are 
promoting a dangerous new agenda 
that threatens our most cherished ide¬ 
als and sets women against men in 
all spheres of life. In case after case, 
Sommers shows how these extrem¬ 
ists have propped up their arguments 
with highly questionable but well-fund¬ 
ed research, presenting inflamma¬ 
tory and often inaccurate 
information and stifling any sem¬ 
blance of free and open scrutiny. 
Trumpeted as orthodoxy, the resulting 
“findings” on everything from rape to 
domestic abuse to economic bias to 
the supposed crisis in girls’ self¬ 
esteem perpetuate a view of women 
as victims of the “patriarchy.” 

Moreover, these arguments and 
the supposed facts on which they are 
based have had enormous influence 
beyond the academy, where they have 
shaken the foundations of our educa¬ 
tional, scientific, and legal institutions 
and have fostered resentment and 
alienation in our private lives. Despite 
its current dominance, Sommers 
maintains, such a breed of feminism 
is at odds with the real aspirations 
and values of most American women 
and undermines the cause of true 

Who Stole Feminism? is a call to 
arms that will enrage or inspire, but 
cannot be ignored. 

Christina Hoff Sommers is an associ¬ 
ate professor of philosophy at Clark 
University who specializes in contem¬ 
porary moral theory. The editor of two 
ethics textbooks, she has published 
numerous professional papers. She 
has also written articles for The New 
Republic, The Wall Street Journal, the 
Chicago Tribune, and The New 
England Journal of Medicine, among 
other publications. She lives in the 
Boston area. 

Jacket design by Jackie Seow 

Author photograph by Joyce Ravid 

Printed in the U.S.A. Copyright O 1994 Simon & Schuster 



American feminism is currently dominated by a group of 
women who seek to persuade the public that American 
women are not the free creatures we think we are. The 
leaders and theorists of the women’s movement believe 
that our society is best described as a patriarchy, a “male 
hegemony,” a “sex/gender system” in which the dominant 
gender works to keep women cowering and submissive. The 
feminists who hold this divisive view of our social and politi¬ 
cal reality believe that we are in a gender war, and they are 
eager to disseminate stories of atrocity that are designed 
to alert women to their plight. The “gender feminists” (as I 
shall be calling them) believe that all our institutions, from 
the state to the family to the grade schools, perpetuate 
male dominance. Believing that women are virtually under 
siege, gender feminists naturally seek recruits to wage 
their side of the gender war. They seek support. They seek 
vindication. They seek ammunition. 

I have been moved to write this book because I am a 
feminist who does not like what feminism has become. The 
new gender feminism is badly in need of scrutiny. Only 
forthright appraisals can diminish its inordinate and divisive 
influence. If others will join in a frank and honest critique, 
before long a more representative and less doctrinaire femi¬ 
nism will again pick up the reins. But that is not likely to 
happen without a fight. 

ISBN Q-b?l-?T4S4-6 










Christina Hoff Sommers 

Simon & Schuster 

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Copyright © 1994 by Christina Sommers 

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any 
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Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 
Sommers, Christina Hoff. 

Who stole feminism? : how women have betrayed women / Christina Hoff Sommers, 
p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

1. Feminism—Philosophy. 2. Feminism—United States—History. I. Title. 
HQ1154.S613 1994 

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ISBN: 0671-79424-8 

The charts that appear on pages 246 and 247 are reprinted by permission of The Com¬ 
monwealth Fund, a New York-based national philanthropic organization. 


Of the many friends who helped me I single out those who read and 
criticized the manuscript at various stages: Martin Boer, Robert Costrell, 
Barbara Ellis, John Ellis, Ronni Gordon, Don Klein, Erika Kors, Evelyn 
Rich, Gail Savitz, David Stillman, Abigail Themstrom, and Stephan 

I am grateful to Dawn Baker, an undergraduate at Boston University, 
Peter Welsh, a political science graduate student at Boston College, and 
Alex Stillman, an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins. They checked facts 
and looked for primary sources, which were more often than not difficult 
to trace. Special thanks also to Hilary Olsen for her many hours of proof¬ 
reading, editing, and retyping. 

I am obliged to Lynn Chu and Glen Hartley for having urged me to 
undertake this book. My editor, Rebecca Saletan, has been superb 
throughout the two years I took in writing it. Denise Roy and Jay 
Schweitzer ably shepherded the book through the editorial and produc¬ 
tion processes. 



Louise Hoff, my sister, traveled with me to many feminist conferences, 
into the very dens of the lionesses, providing much needed moral sup¬ 
port. Our mother, Dolores Hoff, has shown us both that being a feminist 
has nothing to do with resenting men. 

It is easy enough to get grants for feminist research aimed at showing 
how women are being shortchanged and “silenced” by the male establish¬ 
ment. It is not so easy to receive grants for a study that criticizes the 
feminist establishment for its errors and excesses. The Lynde and Harry 
Bradley Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, and the John M. Olin 
Foundation believed that what I had to say was important, and I thank 
them for their gracious and generous support for this project. I could not 
have written this book without their aid and cooperation, nor without 
the support of Clark University, which allowed me a two-year leave and 
awarded me a Mellon Faculty Development Grant and a Higgins Research 

Numerous others—too numerous to identify here—supported me 
morally and intellectually. They know well who they are and know as 
well how thankful I am. 1 apologize for not acknowledging them by name. 

A great deal of what is valuable and right about Who Stole Feminism? is 
due to the wisdom, encouragement, and unfailing assistance of my hus¬ 
band, Fred Sommers. My views on feminism are controversial, and when 
those who do not take well to criticism react by maligning me rather than 
my argument, Fred helps me stay calm and clear. 

I am grateful to my stepson, Tamler Sommers, whose twenty-three- 
year-old perspective saved me more than once from what he assured me 
were misguided efforts at humor. 

This book is dedicated to Fred, to Tamler, and to my nine-year-old 
son, David Sommers, who is, I suspect, delighted to see the last of its 


Preface 11 

1. Women Under Siege 19 

2. Indignation, Resentment, and Collective Guilt 41 

3. Transforming the Academy 50 

4. New Epistemologies 74 

5. The Feminist Classroom 87 

6. A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 118 

7. The Self-Esteem Study 137 

8. The Wellesley Report: A Gender at Risk 157 

9. Noble Lies 188 

10. Rape Research 209 

11. The Backlash Myth 227 

12. The Gender Wardens 255 
Notes 276 

Index 307 


In Revolution from Within, Gloria Steinem informs her readers that “in 
this country alone . . . about 150,000 females die of anorexia each year.” 1 
That is more than three times the annual number of fatalities from car 
accidents for the total population. Steinem refers readers to another fem¬ 
inist best-seller, Naomi Wolfs The Beauty Myth. And in Ms. Wolfs book 
one again finds the statistic, along with the author’s outrage. “How,” she 
asks, “would America react to the mass self-immolation by hunger of its 
favorite sons?” 2 Although “nothing justifies comparison with the Holo¬ 
caust,” she cannot refrain from making one anyway. “When confronted 
with a vast number of emaciated bodies starved not by nature but by 
men, one must notice a certain resemblance.” 3 

Where did Ms. Wolf get her figures? Her source is Fasting Girls: The 
Emergence of Anorexia Nervosa as a Modern Disease 4 by Joan Brumberg, a 
historian and former director of women’s studies at Cornell University. 
Brumberg, too, is fully aware of the political significance of the startling 
statistic. She points out that the women who study eating problems “seek 



to demonstrate that these disorders are an inevitable consequence of a 
misogynistic society that demeans women... by objectifying their 
bodies.” 5 Professor Brumberg, in turn, attributes the figure to the Ameri¬ 
can Anorexia and Bulimia Association. 

I called the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association and spoke to 
Dr. Diane Mickley, its president. “We were misquoted,” she said. In a 
1985 newsletter the association had referred to 150,000 to 200,000 suf¬ 
ferers (not fatalities') of anorexia nervosa. 

What is the correct morbidity rate? Most experts are reluctant to give 
exact figures. One clinician told me that of 1,400 patients she had treated 
in ten years, four had died—all through suicide. The National Center for 
Health Statistics reported 101 deaths from anorexia nervosa in 1983 and 
67 deaths in 1988. 6 Thomas Dunn of the Division of Vital Statistics at the 
National Center for Health Statistics reports that in 1991 there were 54 
deaths from anorexia nervosa and no deaths from bulimia. The deaths of 
these young women are a tragedy, certainly, but in a country of one 
hundred million adult females, such numbers are hardly evidence of a 

Yet now the false figure, supporting the view that our “sexist society” 
demeans women by objectifying their bodies, is widely accepted as true. 
Ann Landers repeated it in her syndicated column in April 1992: “Every 
year, 150,000 American women die from complications associated with 
anorexia and bulimia.” 7 

I sent Naomi Wolf a letter pointing out that Dr. Mickley had said she 
was mistaken. Wolf sent me word on February 3, 1993, that she intends 
to revise her figures on anorexia in a later edition of The Beauty Myth. 8 
Will she actually state that the correct figure is less than one hundred per 
year? And will she correct the implications she drew from the false report? 
For example, will she revise her thesis that masses of young women are 
being “starved not by nature but by men” and her declaration that 
“women must claim anorexia as political damage done to us by a social 
order that considers our destruction insignificant... as Jews identify the 
death camps” ? 9 

Will Ms. Steinem advise her readers of the egregious statistical error? 
Will Ms. Landers? Will it even matter? By now, the 150,000 figure has 
made it into college textbooks. A recent women’s studies text, aptly titled 
The Knowledge Explosion, contains the erroneous figure in its preface. 10 

The anorexia “crisis” is only one sample of the kind of provocative but 
inaccurate information being purveyed by women about “women’s issues” 
these days. On November 4, 1992, Deborah Louis, president of the Na¬ 
tional Women’s Studies Association, sent a message to the Women’s Stud- 



ies Electronic Bulletin Board: “According to [the] last March of Dimes 
report, domestic violence (vs. pregnant women) is now responsible for 
more birth defects than all other causes combined. Personally [this] 
strikes me as the most disgusting piece of data I’ve seen in a long while.” 11 
This was, indeed, unsettling news. But it seemed implausible. I asked my 
neighbor, a pediatric neurologist at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, about 
the report. He told me that although severe battery may occasionally cause 
miscarriage, he had never heard of battery as a significant cause of birth 
defects. Yet on February 23, 1993, Patricia Ireland, president of the Na¬ 
tional Organization of Women, made a similar claim during a PBS inter¬ 
view with Charlie Rose: “Battery of pregnant women is the number one 
cause of birth defects in this country.” 

I called the March of Dimes to get a copy of the report. Maureen Corry, 
director of the March’s Education and Health Promotion Program, denied 
any knowledge of it. “We have never seen this research before,” she 

I did a search and found that—study or no study—journalists around 
the country were citing it. 

Domestic violence is the leading cause of birth defects, more than 
all other medical causes combined, according to a March of Dimes 
study. (Boston Globe, September 2, 1991) 

Especially grotesque is the brutality reserved for pregnant women: 
the March of Dimes has concluded that the battering of women 
during pregnancy causes more birth defects than all the diseases put 
together for which children are usually immunized. (Time magazine, 
January 18, 1993) 

The March of Dimes has concluded that the battering of women 
during pregnancy causes more birth defects than all the diseases put 
together for which children are usually immunized. (Dallas Morning 
News, February 7, 1993) 

The March of Dimes says battering during pregnancy causes more 
birth defects than all diseases for which children are immunized. 
(Arizona Republic, March 21, 1993) 

The March of Dimes estimates that domestic violence is the largest 
single cause of birth defects. (Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1993) 

I called the March of Dimes again. Andrea Ziltzer of their media relations 
department told me that the rumor was spinning out of control. Gover- 



nors’ offices, state health departments, and Washington politicians had 
flooded the office with phone calls. Even the office of Senator Edward 
Kennedy had requested a copy of the “report.” The March of Dimes had 
asked Time for a retraction. For some reason, Time was stalling. 

When I finally reached Jeanne McDowell, who had written the Time 
article, the first thing she said was “That was an error.” She sounded 
genuinely sorry and embarrassed. She explained that she is always careful 
about checking sources, but this time, for some reason, she had not. Time 
was supposed to have printed a retraction in the letters column, but 
because of a mixup, it had failed to do so. Time has since called the March 
of Dimes’ media relations department to apologize. An official retraction 
finally appeared in the magazine on December 6, 1993, under the head¬ 
ing “Inaccurate Information.” 12 

I asked Ms. McDowell about her source. She had relied on information 
given her by the San Francisco Family Violence Prevention Fund, which 
in turn had obtained it from Sarah Buel, a founder of the domestic 
violence advocacy project at Harvard Law School who now heads a do¬ 
mestic abuse project in Massachusetts. 13 Ms. Buel had obtained it from 
Caroline Whitehead, a maternal nurse and child care specialist in Raleigh, 
North Carolina. I called Ms. Whitehead. 

“It blows my mind. It is not true,” she said. The whole mixup began, 
she explained, when she introduced Sarah Buel as a speaker at a 1989 
conference for nurses and social workers. In presenting her, Ms. White- 
head mentioned that according to some March of Dimes research she had 
seen, more women are screened for birth defects than are ever screened 
for domestic battery. “In other words, what I said was, ‘We screen for 
battery far less than we screen for birth defects.’ ” Ms. Whitehead had 
said nothing at all about battery causing birth defects. “Sarah misunder¬ 
stood me,” she said. Buel went on to put the erroneous information into 
an unpublished manuscript, which was then circulated among family 
violence professionals. They saw no reason to doubt its authority and 
repeated the claim to others. 14 

I called Sarah Buel and told her that it seemed she had misheard Ms. 
Whitehead. She was surprised. “Oh, I must have misunderstood her. I’ll 
have to give her a call. She is my source.” She thanked me for having 
informed her of the error, pointing out that she had been about to repeat 
it yet again in a new article she was writing. 

Why was everybody so credulous? Battery responsible for more birth 
defects than all other causes combined? More than genetic disorders such 
as spina bifida, Down syndrome, Tay-Sachs, sickle-cell anemia? More 
than congenital heart disorders? More than alcohol, crack, or AIDS— 



more than all these things combined? Where were the fact-checkers, the 
editors, the skeptical journalists? 

Unfortunately, the anorexia statistic and the March of Dimes “study” 
are typical of the quality of information we are getting on many women’s 
issues from feminist researchers, women’s advocates, and journalists. 
More often than not, a closer look at the supporting evidence—the stud¬ 
ies and statistics on eating disorders, domestic battery, rape, sexual ha¬ 
rassment, bias against girls in school, wage differentials, or the demise of 
the nuclear family—will raise grave questions about credibility, not to 
speak of objectivity. 

When they engage in exaggeration, oversimplification, and obfusca¬ 
tion, the feminist researchers may be no different from such other advo¬ 
cacy groups as the National Rifle Association or the tobacco industry. But 
when the NRA does a “study that shows . . . ,” or the tobacco industry 
finds “data that suggest. . . ,” journalists are on their guard. They check 
sources and seek dissenting opinions. 

In January 1993 newspapers and television networks reported an 
alarming finding: incidence of domestic battery tended to rise by 40 
percent on Super Bowl Sunday. NBC, which was broadcasting the game 
that year, made special pleas to men to stay calm. Feminists called for 
emergency preparations in anticipation of the expected increase in vio¬ 
lence on January 31. They also used the occasion to drive home the 
message that maleness and violence against women are synonymous. 
Nancy Isaac, a Harvard School of Public Health research associate who 
specializes in domestic violence, told the Boston Globe: “It’s a day for men 
to revel in their maleness and unfortunately, for a lot of men that includes 
being violent toward women if they want to be.” 15 

Journalists across the country accepted the 40 percent figure at face 
value and duly reported the bleak tidings. The sole exception was Ken 
Ringle, a reporter at the Washington Post, who decided to check on the 
sources. As we shall see later in this book, he quickly found that the story 
had no basis in fact. 16 It turns out that Super Bowl Sunday is in no way 
different from other days in the amount of domestic violence. Though 
Ringle exposed the rumor, it had done its work: millions of American 
women who heard about it are completely unaware that it is not true. 
What they do “know” is that American males, especially the sports fans 
among them, are a dangerous and violent species. 

To the question “Why is everyone so credulous?” we must add another: 
“Why are certain feminists so eager to put men in a bad light?” I shall try 
to answer both these questions and to show how the implications affect 
us all. 



American feminism is currently dominated by a group of women who 
seek to persuade the public that American women are not the free creatures 
we think we are. The leaders and theorists of the women’s movement be¬ 
lieve that our society is best described as a patriarchy, a “male hegemony,” 
a “sex/gender system” in which the dominant gender works to keep 
women cowering and submissive. The feminists who hold this divisive 
view of our social and political reality believe we are in a gender war, and 
they are eager to disseminate stories of atrocity that are designed to alert 
women to their plight. The “gender feminists” (as I shall call them) believe 
that all our institutions, from the state to the family to the grade schools, 
perpetuate male dominance. Believing that women are virtually under 
siege, gender feminists naturally seek recruits to their side of the gender 
war. They seek support. They seek vindication. They seek ammunition. 

Not everyone, including many women who consider themselves femi¬ 
nists, is convinced that contemporary American women live in an oppres¬ 
sive “male hegemony.” To confound the skeptics and persuade the 
undecided, the gender feminists are constantly on the lookout for proof, 
for the smoking gun, the telling fact that will drive home to the public 
how profoundly the system is rigged against women. To rally women to 
their cause, it is not enough to remind us that many brutal and selfish 
men harm women. They must persuade us that the system itself sanctions 
male brutality. They must convince us that the oppression of women, 
sustained from generation to generation, is a structural feature of our 

Well-funded, prestigious organizations as well as individuals are en¬ 
gaged in this enterprise. In 1992, for example, the American Association 
of University Women and the Wellesley College Center for Research on 
Women announced findings that our schools systematically favor boys 
and are contributing to a dramatic drop in girls’ self-esteem. In another 
study, the Commonwealth Fund, relying on polls taken by Louis Harris 
and Associates, spread the news that 37 percent of American women are 
psychologically abused by their husbands or partners every year and that 
“40 percent of women. . . experience severe depression in a given 
week.” 17 As we shall see, these alarming reports have little more basis in 
fact than did the Super Bowl hoax. 

I recently told a friend that I was coming across a lot of mistakes and 
misleading data in feminist studies. “It’s a mess,” I said. “Are you sure 
you want to write about it?” she asked. “The far right will use what you 



find to attack all women. It will harm the women who are working in 
such problem areas as battery and wage discrimination. Why do anything 
to endanger our fragile gains?” My friend’s questions were sobering, and 
I want to underscore at the outset that I do not mean to confuse the 
women who work in the trenches to help the victims of true abuse and 
discrimination with the gender feminists whose falsehoods and exagger¬ 
ations are muddying the waters of American feminism. These feminist 
ideologues are helping no one; on the contrary, their divisive and resent¬ 
ful philosophy adds to the woes of our society and hurts legitimate fem¬ 
inism. Not only are women who suffer real abuse not helped by untruths, 
they are in fact harmed by inaccuracies and exaggerations. 

For example, as Ms. Whitehead noted, more women are screened for 
birth defects than for battery. She was touching on a terribly important 
problem. Battery is still not taken seriously enough as a medical problem. 
Most hospitals have procedures to avoid discharging patients at high risk 
of suffering a relapse of the condition for which they are being treated. 
Yet few hospitals have procedures that would put women likely to suffer 
further abuse in touch with the professional services that could help them 
avoid it, a real and shocking problem. That battery is the chief cause of 
birth defects is perhaps more shocking, but it is untrue. The March of 
Dimes has developed an excellent hospital “Protocol of Care for the Bat¬ 
tered Woman.” Wouldn’t it have been more effective to publicize the 
problem that Ms. Whitehead had actually talked about and promoted the 
March of Dimes’ solution? True, the alleged findings had great value as 
gender feminist propaganda. But, being incorrect, they could lead to 
nothing constructive in the way of alleviating the actual suffering of 

American women owe an incalculable debt to the classically liberal 
feminists who came before us and fought long and hard, and ultimately 
with spectacular success, to gain for women the rights that the men of 
this country had taken for granted for over two hundred years. Exposing 
the hypocrisy of the gender feminists will not jeopardize those achieve¬ 
ments. Battered women don’t need untruths to make their case before a 
fair-minded public that hates and despises bullies; there is enough tragic 
truth to go around. 

With that in mind, I shall evaluate here the views of such feminists as 
Gloria Steinem, Patricia Ireland, Susan Faludi, Marilyn French, Naomi 
Wolf, and Catharine MacKinnon and the findings that inform them. I 



shall take a look at the feminist institutions that now control large areas 
of information about women. I shall take note of overly trusting journal¬ 
ists and the many politicians who are eager to show that they “get it.” 

Above all, I shall examine the philosophy, the beliefs, and the passions 
of the feminist theorists and researchers—the ones who do the “studies 
that show ...” and who provide the movement its intellectual leadership. 
These articulate, energetic, and determined women are training a genera¬ 
tion of young activists. All indications are that the new crop of young 
feminist ideologues coming out of our nation’s colleges are even angrier, 
more resentful, and more indifferent to the truth than their mentors. 

The large majority of women, including the majority of college women, 
are distancing themselves from this anger and resentfulness. Unfortu¬ 
nately, they associate these attitudes with feminism, and so they conclude 
that they are not really feminists. According to a 1992 Time/CNN poll, 
although 57 percent of the women responding said they believed there 
was a need for a strong women’s movement, 63 percent said they do not 
consider themselves feminists. 18 Another poll conducted by R. H. Brush- 
kin reported that only 16 percent of college women “definitely” con¬ 
sidered themselves to be feminists. 19 

In effect, the gender feminists lack a grass roots constituency. They 
blame a media “backlash” for the defection of the majority of women. But 
what happened is clear enough: the gender feminists have stolen “femin¬ 
ism” from a mainstream that had never acknowledged their leadership. 

The women currently manning—womanning—the feminist ramparts 
do not take well to criticism. How could they? As they see it, they are 
dealing with a massive epidemic of male atrocity and a constituency of 
benighted women who have yet to comprehend the seriousness of their 
predicament. Hence, male critics must be “sexist” and “reactionary,” and 
female critics “traitors,” “collaborators,” or “backlashers.” This kind of 
reaction has had a powerful inhibiting effect. It has alienated and silenced 
women and men alike. 

I have been moved to write this book because I am a feminist who 
does not like what feminism has become. The new gender feminism is 
badly in need of scrutiny. Only forthright appraisals can diminish its 
inordinate and divisive influence. If others join in a frank and honest 
critique, before long a more representative and less doctrinaire feminism 
will again pick up the reins. But that is not likely to happen without a 

Chapter 1 

Women Under Siege 

The New Feminism emphasizes the importance of the 
“women's point of view ” the Old Feminism believes in the 
primary importance of the human being. 

—Winifred Holtby, 1926 1 

A surprising number of clever and powerful feminists share the 
conviction that American women still live in a patriarchy where men 
collectively keep women down. It is customary for these feminists to 
assemble to exchange stories and to talk about the “anger issues” that vex 

One such conference—“Out of the Academy and Into the World with 
Carolyn Heilbrun”—took place at the Graduate Center of City University 
of New York in October 1992. The morning sessions were devoted to 
honoring the feminist scholar and mystery writer Carolyn Heilbrun on 
the occasion of her voluntary retirement from Columbia University after 
thirty-two years of tenure. I had just then been reading Marilyn French’s 
The War Against Women , which Ms. Heilbrun touts on the cover as a book 
that “lays out women’s state in this world—and it is a state of siege.” 2 

Intelligent women who sincerely believe that American women are in 
a gender war intrigue me, so a day with Ms. Heilbrun and her admirers 
promised to be rewarding. I arrived early, but so did an overflow crowd 
of more than five hundred women. I was lucky to get a seat. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Though she had long held a prestigious chair in Columbia’s English 
department, Heilbrun made it clear that she felt beleaguered there. But 
she had survived. “In life, as in fiction,” she told the New York Times , 
“women who speak out usually end up punished or dead. I’m lucky to 
escape with my pension and a year of leave.” 3 Thirty-two years ago, there 
were no tenured female professors in Columbia’s English department. 
Now eight of its thirty-two tenured professors are women, and a majority 
of its junior professors are women. According to the Times , such facts do 
not impress Heilbrun. “Female doesn’t mean feminist,” she snapped. 4 

As if to underscore that Columbia was intent on slighting her, Professor 
Heilbrun accused the male and female members of the Columbia English 
department of deliberately scheduling their own feminist conference on 
the same day as the conference honoring her. The Chronicle of Higher 
Education later reported that Ms. Heilbrun was mistaken: the rival confer¬ 
ence, “Women at the Turn of the Century: 1890-1910,” had been 
planned many months before this one. 5 

Heilbrun’s theme of “siege” set the tone for the rest of the conference. 
As the Chronicle put it, “If someone as prominent as Ms. Heilbrun could 
feel so ‘isolated and powerless’. . . where did that leave other feminists?” 6 
One admirer of Ms. Heilbrun, Professor Pauline Bart of the University of 
Illinois, spoke of Heilbrun and herself as victims of mass persecution: 
“Carolyn [Heilbrun] and people like us will survive, from the outside if 
need be. One of my male students, a Chilean refugee, and his wife just 
had a baby. They named him Paolo, after me, because his father fought 
back and was tortured under Pinochet, and he sees me carrying on in 
that tradition.” 7 

Throughout the day, speakers recited tales of outrage and warned of 
impending male backlash. Sarah Ruddick, a New School for Social Re¬ 
search feminist known for “valorizing” women as the gentle nurturers of 
our species, paid tribute to Heilbrun’s “politicized anger”: “Our anger, as 
Carolyn puts it so well, arouses the patriarchy to disgust.” The historian 
Blanche Wiesen Cook (who had just released a book in which she claimed 
that Eleanor Roosevelt was really a lesbian) spoke of the vital stake women 
had in the impending 1992 presidential election: “It is a cross-road that 
will lead to a Fourth Reich or a real opportunity.” 

Jane Marcus, of the City University of New York, called the afternoon 
“Anger Session” to order, introducing herself as “an expert on anger” and 
thanking Heilbrun for teaching her “to use my rage in my writing.” She 
introduced the other panelists as angry in one way or another: Alice 
Jardine of Harvard University’s French department was “angry and strug- 

Women Under Siege 


gling.” Brenda Silver of Dartmouth had been “struggling and angry since 
1972.” Catharine Stimpson, former provost at Rutgers and recently se¬ 
lected to head the distinguished MacArthur Fellows Program, was intro¬ 
duced as “an enraged and engaged intellectual.” 8 

Gloria Steinem took the microphone and explained why she was en¬ 
raged: “I have become even more angry . . . the alternative is depression.” 
To deal with patriarchal schools, she recommended an “underground 
system of education,” a bartering system in which a midwife could ex¬ 
change her services “in return for Latin American history.” Steinem be¬ 
lieves things are so bad for contemporary American women that we might 
have to consider setting up centers for training political organizers. 

For someone like me, who does not believe that American women are 
in a state of siege (and so lacks the basis for the kind of anger that drives 
out depression), the conference was depressing. It was clear that these 
well-favored women sincerely felt aggrieved. It was equally clear to me 
that the bitter spirits they were dispensing to the American public were 
unwholesome and divisive. 

For whom do these “engaged and enraged” women at the conference 
speak? Who is their constituency? It might be said that as academics and 
intellectuals they speak for no one but themselves. But that would be to 
mistake their mission. They see themselves as the second wave of the 
feminist movement, as the moral vanguard fighting a war to save women. 
But do American women need to be saved by anyone? 

The women at the Heilbrun conference are the New Feminists: articu¬ 
late, prone to self-dramatization, and chronically offended. Many of the 
women on the “Anger” panel were tenured professors at prestigious uni¬ 
versities. All had fine and expensive educations. Yet, listening to them 
one would never guess that they live in a country whose women are 
legally as free as the men and whose institutions of higher learning now 
have more female than male students. 

It was inevitable that such single-minded and energetic women would 
find their way into leadership positions. It is unfortunate for American 
feminism that their ideology and attitude are diverting the women’s 
movement from its true purposes. 

The presumption that men are collectively engaged in keeping women 
down invites feminist bonding in a resentful community. When a Heil¬ 
brun or a Steinem advises us that men are not about to relinquish their 
hegemony, the implicit moral is that women must form self-protective 
enclaves. In such enclaves women can speak out safely and help one 
another to recover from the indignities they suffer under patriarchy. In 


Who Stole Feminism? 

such enclaves they can think of how to change or provide alternatives to 
the “androcentric” institutions that have always prevailed in education 
and the workplace. The message is that women must be “gynocentric,” 
that they must join with and be loyal only to women. 

The traditional, classically liberal, humanistic feminism that was initi¬ 
ated more than 150 years ago was very different. It had a specific agenda, 
demanding for women the same rights before the law that men enjoyed. 
The suffrage had to be won, and the laws regarding property, marriage, 
divorce, and child custody had to be made equitable. More recently, 
abortion rights had to be protected. The old mainstream feminism con¬ 
centrated on legal reforms. In seeking specific and achievable ends, it did 
not promote a gynocentric stance; self-segregation of women had no part 
in an agenda that sought equality and equal access for women. 

Most American women subscribe philosophically to that older “First 
Wave” kind of feminism whose main goal is equity, especially in politics 
and education. A First Wave, “mainstream,” or “equity” feminist wants 
for women what she wants for everyone: fair treatment, without discrim¬ 
ination. “We ask no better laws than those you have made for yourselves. 
We need no other protection than that which your present laws secure to 
you,” said Elizabeth Cady Stanton, perhaps the ablest exponent of equity 
feminism, addressing the New York State Legislature in 1854. 9 The equity 
agenda may not yet be fully achieved, but by any reasonable measure, 
equity feminism has turned out to be a great American success story. 

Heilbrun, Steinem, and other current feminist notables ride this First 
Wave for its popularity and its moral authority, but most of them adhere 
to a new, more radical, “Second Wave” doctrine: that women, even mod¬ 
em American women, are in thrall to “a system of male dominance” 
variously referred to as “heteropatriarchy” or the sex/gender system. Ac¬ 
cording to one feminist theorist, the sex/gender system is “that complex 
process whereby bi-sexual infants are transformed into male and female 
gender personalities, the one destined to command, the other to obey.” 10 
Sex/gender feminism (“gender feminism” for short) is the prevailing ide¬ 
ology among contemporary feminist philosophers and leaders. But it lacks 
a grass roots constituency. 

The New Feminists claim continuity with the likes of the eighteenth- 
century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft or later feminists like the Grimke 
sisters, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Harriet Taylor. 
But those giants of the women’s movement grounded their feminist de¬ 
mands on Enlightenment principles of individual justice. By contrast, the 
New Feminists have little faith in the Enlightenment principles that influ- 

Women Under Siege 


enced the founders of Americas political order and that inspired the great 
classical feminists to wage their fight for women’s rights. 

The idea that women are in a gender war originated in the midsixties, 
when the antiwar and antigovemment mood revivified and redirected the 
women’s movement away from its Enlightenment liberal philosophy to a 
more radical, antiestablishment philosophy. The decisive battles of the 
sexual revolution had been won, and students here and on the Continent 
were reading Herbert Marcuse, Karl Marx, Franz Fanon, and Jean-Paul 
Sartre and learning how to critique their culture and institutions in heady 
new ways. They began to see the university, the military, and the govern¬ 
ment as merely different parts of a defective status quo. 

Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer would continue to offer women a 
liberal version of consciousness raising whose aim was to awaken them 
to new possibilities of individual self-fulfillment. But by the midseventies, 
faith in liberal solutions to social problems had waned, and the old style 
of consciousness raising that encouraged women to seek avenues of self- 
fulfillment rapidly gave way to one that initiated women into an appreci¬ 
ation of their subordinate situation in the patriarchy and the joys and 
comforts of group solidarity. 

Having “transcended” the liberalism of Friedan and the fierce individ¬ 
ualism of Greer, feminists began to work seriously on getting women to 
become aware of the political dimension of their lives. Kate Millett’s 
Sexual Politics was critical in moving feminism in this new direction. It 
taught women that politics was essentially sexual and that even the so- 
called democracies were male hegemonies: “However muted its present 
appearance may be, sexual dominion obtains nevertheless as perhaps the 
most pervasive ideology of our culture and provides its most fundamental 
concept of power.” 11 

The New Feminists began to direct their energies toward getting 
women to join in the common struggle against patriarchy, to view society 
through the sex/gender prism. When a woman’s feminist consciousness 
is thus “raised,” she learns to identify her personal self with her gender. 
She sees her relations to men in political terms (“the personal is the 
political”). This “insight” into the nature of male/female relations makes 
the gender feminist impatient with piecemeal liberal reformist solutions 
and leads her to strive for a more radical transformation of our society 
than earlier feminists had envisioned. 

It is now commonplace for feminist philosophers to reject the En¬ 
lightenment ideals of the old feminism. According to the University of 
Colorado feminist theorist Alison Jaggar, “Radical and socialist feminists 


Who Stole Feminism? 

have shown that the old ideals of freedom, equality and democracy are 
insufficient.” 12 Iris Young, of the University of Pittsburgh, echoes the 
contemporary feminist disillusionment with the classically liberal femin¬ 
ism of yesteryear, claiming that “after two centuries of faith ... the ideal 
of equality and fraternity” no longer prevails: 13 

Most feminists of the nineteenth and twentieth century, including 
feminists of the early second wave, have been humanist feminists. 

In recent years, a different account of women’s oppression has 
gained influence, however, partly growing from a critique of human¬ 
ist feminism. Gynocentric feminism defines women’s oppression as 
the devaluation and repression of women’s experience by a mascu- 
linist culture that exalts violence and individualism. 14 

The University of Wisconsin philosopher Andrea Nye acknowledges 
that the liberal agenda had been successful in gaining women legal free¬ 
doms, but she insists that this means very little, because “the liberated 
enfranchised woman might complain that democratic society has only 
returned her to a more profound subordination.” 15 

The loss of faith in classically liberal solutions, coupled with the con¬ 
viction that women remain besieged and subject to a relentless and vi¬ 
cious male backlash, has turned the movement inward. We hear very 
little today about how women can join with men on equal terms to 
contribute to a universal human culture. Instead, feminist ideology has 
taken a divisive, gynocentric turn, and the emphasis now is on women as 
a political class whose interests are at odds with the interests of men. 
Women must be loyal to women, united in principled hostility to the 
males who seek to hold fast to their patriarchal privileges and powers. 

This clash of “old” and “new” feminism is itself nothing new. Here is 
the British feminist and novelist Winifred Holtby writing in 1926: “The 
New Feminism emphasizes the importance of the ‘women’s point of view,’ 
the Old Feminism believes in the primary importance of the human 
being. . . . Personally I am ... an Old Feminist.” 16 The old feminism has 
had many exponents, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony 
in the middle of the nineteenth century to Betty Friedan and Germaine 
Greer in our own day. It demanded that women be allowed to live as 
freely as men. To most Americans, that was a fair demand. The old 
feminism was neither defeatist nor gender-divisive, and it is even now the 
philosophy of the feminist “mainstream.” 

The New Feminists, many of them privileged, all of them legally pro¬ 
tected and free, are preoccupied with their own sense of hurt and their 

Women Under Siege 


own feelings of embattlement and “siege.” When they speak of their 
personal plight they use words appropriate to the tragic plight of many 
American women of a bygone day and of millions of contemporary, truly 
oppressed women in other countries. But their resentful rhetoric dis¬ 
credits the American women’s movement today and seriously distorts its 

Indeed, one of the main hallmarks of the New Feminism is its degree 
of self-preoccupation. Feminists like Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. An¬ 
thony were keenly aware of themselves as privileged, middle-class, pro¬ 
tected women. They understood how inappropriate it would be to equate 
their struggles with those of less fortunate women, and it never occurred 
to them to air their personal grievances before the public. 

During the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, Catharine Mac¬ 
Kinnon, the influential feminist theorist and professor of law at the Uni¬ 
versity of Michigan, seized the opportunity for a “national teach-in” on 
feminist perspectives. Calling the Senate’s treatment of Ms. Hill “a public 
hanging,” she was quick to promote it as an example of how women 
suffer when other women are mistreated. She was similarly affected by 
Patricia Bowman’s ordeal in the trial of William Kennedy Smith: 

Watching the second public hanging of a woman who accused a 
powerful man of sexual violation reflects the way in which sexual 
assault in the United States today resembles lynching in times not 
long past. One is lynched and raped as a member of a socially 
subordinated group. Each is an act of torture, a violent sexual hu¬ 
miliation ritual in which victims are often killed. When it happens, 
the target population cringes, withdraws, identifies and disidentifies 
in terror. 17 

That the ordeals of Ms. Hill and Ms. Bowman were comparable to 
lynchings is debatable. Although the dire effect they had on Ms. Mac¬ 
Kinnon and other New Feminists may not be debatable, the alleged ram¬ 
ified effect on all women, the so-called “target population,” is. In fact, 
there is no evidence that most women, including those who believed that 
the truth lay more with Ms. Hill or Ms. Bowman, felt terrorized or “tar¬ 
geted”; or that they “cringed” or thought of themselves as members of a 
“socially subordinated group.” 

Alice Jardine (“angry and struggling” at the Heilbrun conference) told 
the Harvard Crimson how she reacted to the report that a crazed misogyn- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

ist male had just shot and killed fourteen women students at the Univer¬ 
sity of Montreal: “What I saw in the incident in Montreal was the acting 
out of what I experience discursively every day of my life and particularly 
at this institution.” 18 Ms. Jardine’s claim sets a standard of sisterly empa¬ 
thy that not many can hope to match, but her exquisite sensibility is 
paradigmatic for the New Feminist. 

Popular books advertising motifs of humiliation, subordination, and 
male backlash bolster the doctrine of a bifurcated society in which women 
are trapped in the sex/gender system. The feminists who write these 
books speak of the sex/gender system as a “lens” that reveals the world in 
a new way, giving them a new perspective on society and making them 
authorities on what facts to “see,” to stress, and to deplore. 

Virginia Held, a philosophy professor at the City University of New 
York, reported on the feminist conviction that feminist philosophers are 
the initiators of an intellectual revolution comparable to those of “Coper¬ 
nicus, Darwin, and Freud.” 19 Indeed, as Held points out, “some feminists 
think the latest revolution will be even more profound.” According to 
Held, the sex/gender system is the controlling insight of this feminist 
revolution. Ms. Held tells us of the impact that the discovery of the sex/ 
gender system has had on feminist theory: “Now that the sex/gender 
system has become visible to us, we can see it everywhere.” 20 

Indeed, most feminist philosophers are “sex/gender feminists,” and 
most do “see it everywhere.” Held describes the “intellectually gripping” 
effect of the new perspective. I confess I sometimes envy Held and her 
sister gender feminists for the excitement they experience from seeing the 
world through the lens of sexual politics. On the other hand, I believe 
that how these feminist theorists regard American society is more a matter 
of temperament than a matter of insight into social reality. The belief that 
American women are living in thrall to men seems to suit some women 
more than others. I have found that it does not suit me. 

Anyone reading contemporary feminist literature will find a genre of 
writing concerned with personal outrage. Professor Kathryn Allen Ra- 
buzzi of Syracuse University opens her book Motherself by recounting this 

As I was walking down a sleazy section of Second Avenue in New 
York City a few years ago, a voice suddenly intruded on my con¬ 
sciousness: “Hey Mama, spare change?” The words outraged me. . . . 
Although I had by then been a mother for many years, never till that 
moment had I seen myself as “Mama” in such an impersonal, exter- 

Women Under Siege 


nal context. In the man’s speaking I beheld myself anew. “I” disap¬ 
peared, as though turned inside out, and “Mama” took my place. 21 

Ms. Rabuzzi informs us that the panhandler’s term caused in her a 
“shocking dislocation of self.” Similarly, University of Illinois feminist 
theorist Sandra Lee Bartky recounts: 

It is a fine spring day, and with an utter lack of self-consciousness, 

I am bouncing down the street. Suddenly. . . catcalls and whistles 
fill the air. These noises are clearly sexual in intent and they are 
meant for me; they come from across the street. I freeze. As Sartre 
would say, I have been petrified by the gaze of the Other. My face 
flushes and my motions become stiff and self-conscious. The body 
which only a moment before I inhabited with such ease now floods 
my consciousness. I have been made into an object. . . . Blissfully 
unaware, breasts bouncing, eyes on the birds in the trees, I could 
have passed by without having been turned to stone. But I must be 
made to know that I am a “nice piece of ass”: I must be made to see 
myself as they see me. There is an element of compulsion in . . . this 
being-made-to-be-aware of one’s own flesh: like being made to 
apologize, it is humiliating. . . . What I describe seems less the spon¬ 
taneous expression of a healthy eroticism than a ritual of subjuga¬ 
tion. 22 

Marilyn French, the author of The War Against Women , finds herself 
vulnerable in museums: 

Artists appropriate the female body as their subject, their possession 
. . . assaulting female reality and autonomy. . . . Visiting galleries 
and museums (especially the Pompidou Center in Paris) I feel as¬ 
saulted by twentieth-century abstract sculpture that resembles ex¬ 
aggerated female body parts, mainly breasts. 23 

Janet Radcliffe Richards has pointed to some significant similarities 
between modem feminism and religion. 24 1 think she is right, but there is 
an interesting difference in the public testimony of the adherents. The 
devout tend to confess their sins. By contrast, the feminist ideologue 
testifies relentlessly to how she has been sinned against. Moreover, she 
sees revelations of monstrosity in the most familiar and seemingly innoc¬ 
uous phenomena. Her experience of the world may be compared to that 


Who Stole Feminism? 

of the Dutch naturalist Antonin Van Leeuwenhoek when he looked for 
the first time at a drop of water through the microscope he had invented 
and saw there a teeming predatory jungle. 

This, for example, is what Professor Susan McClary, a musicologist at 
the University of Minnesota, tells us to listen for in Beethoven’s Ninth 
Symphony: “The point of recapitulation in the first movement of the 
Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully 
prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally ex¬ 
plodes in the throttling, murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining 
release.” 25 McClary also directs us to be alert to themes of male mastur¬ 
bation in the music of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. 

The “gender war” requires a constant flow of horror stories showing 
women that male perfidy and female humiliation are everywhere. The 
gender feminists who expose these evils for us often argue that what 
appears innocent to the untrained perception is in fact degrading to 
women. They highlight the pain this causes to those feminists who are 
sufficiently aware of what is really going on. 

Addressing the Scripps College graduating class of 1992, Naomi Wolf 
told of an incident from her own commencement exercises when she was 
graduated from Yale eight years before. Dick Cavett, the speaker, had 
made the experience a “graduation from hell.” 26 Cavett, himself a Yale 
alumnus, had opened his address with an anecdote about his undergrad¬ 
uate days: “When I was an undergraduate ... the women went to Vassar. 
At Vassar they had nude photographs taken of the women in gym class 
to check their posture. One year the photos were stolen, and turned up 
for sale in New Haven’s red light district. . . . The photos found no buy¬ 
ers.” According to Ms. Wolf, the moment was devastating. “There we 
were, silent in our black gowns, our tassels, our brand-new shoes. We 
dared not break the silence. . . . That afternoon, several hundred men 
were confirmed in the power of a powerful institution. But many of the 
women felt the shame of the powerless: the choking silence, the complic¬ 
ity, the helplessness.” 27 Never mind that Ms. Wolf was addressing some 
of the most privileged young women in the country. The remainder of 
her speech was devoted to giving them suggestions for the “survival kit” 
they would need in the hostile male world they were about to enter. 

Is it possible that the Yale women were so stricken by Cavett’s tasteless 
joke? Did the Scripps women really need a survival kit? If these privileged 
young women are really so fragile, what could Wolfs survival kit do for 
them anyway? (It seems that Cavett discombobulated Wolf even more 
than she realized. In a letter to the Times, Cavett pointed out that though 
Wolf had called him “the speaker” at her commencement, he spoke not 

Women Under Siege 


at commencement but on Class Day, “a separate, more lighthearted 
event.” 28 ) 

Wolf herself was showing the Scripps graduating class how she sur¬ 
vives, but though her methods were different, her general approach was 
old-fashioned indeed. Earlier in this century, many households still had 
smelling salts on hand in the event that “delicate” women reacted to 
displays of male vulgarity by fainting. Today, women of delicacy have a 
new way to demonstrate their exquisitely fragile sensibilities: by explain¬ 
ing to anyone who will listen how they have been blighted and violated 
by some male’s offensive coarseness. If nothing of a telling nature has 
recently happened to us, we can tell about how we felt on hearing what 
happened to others. We faint, “discursively” and publicly, at our humili¬ 
ations at the hands of men. 

The Hyatt Regency in Austin, Texas, is a pleasant hotel, but not all of 
the five hundred participants of the 1992 National Women’s Studies 
Association Conference were happy with it. One woman, a professor of 
women’s studies from a well-known southern college, complained to me 
about the weddings being held there throughout the weekend. “Why have 
they put us in a setting where that sort of thing is going on?” 

The conference participants represented a cross section of the New 
Feminist leadership in all areas of the women’s movement. Some head 
urban women’s centers. Others work in the offices of important politi¬ 
cians. Many of the women who attended the conference are in the acad¬ 
emy in one capacity or another, either as teachers or as administrators. 

Being aggrieved was a conference motif. The keynote speaker, Annette 
Kolodny, a feminist literary scholar and former dean of the humanities 
faculty at the University of Arizona, opened the proceedings with a brief 
history of the “narratives of pain” within the NWSA. She reported that 
ten years ago, the organization “almost came apart over outcries by our 
lesbian sisters that we had failed adequately to listen to their many 
voices.” Five years ago, sisters in the Jewish caucus had wept at their own 
“sense of invisibility.” Three years later the Disability caucus threatened 
to quit, and the following year the women of color walked out. A perni¬ 
cious bigotry, Kolodny confessed, persisted in the NWSA. “Our litanies 
of outrage . . . overcame our fragile consensus of shared commitment and 
the center would no longer hold.” 29 

At past conferences, oppressed women had accused other women of 
oppressing them. Participants met in groups defined by their grievances 
and healing needs: Jewish women, Jewish lesbians, Asian-American 


Who Stole Feminism? 

women, African-American women, old women, disabled women, fat 
women, women whose sexuality is in transition. None of the groups 
proved stable. The fat group polarized into gay and straight factions, and 
the Jewish women discovered they were deeply divided: some accepted 
being Jewish; others were seeking to recover from it. 30 This year, concern 
extended to “marginalized” allergy groups. Participants were sent advance 
notice not to bring perfumes, dry-cleaned clothing, hairspray, or other 
irritants to the conference out of concern for allergic sisters. Hypercon- 
cem is now the norm: at the first National Lesbian Convention in Atlanta, 
flash cameras were outlawed—on grounds that they might bring on epi¬ 
leptic fits. 

Eleanor Smeal, the former president of NOW, was scheduled to be the 
first speaker on the NWSA “empowerment panel,” but her plane had 
been delayed in Memphis. To pass the time, we were introduced to an 
array of panelists who were touted as being experienced in conflict reso¬ 
lution. One woman was introduced as a member of the Mohawk nation 
who “facilitates antibias training.” Another, an erstwhile dancer, was de¬ 
scribed as a black lesbian activist who was “doing an amazing, miraculous 
job on campuses building coalitions.” A third, who had training as a 
holistic health practitioner, headed workshops that “creatively optimize 
human capacity.” 

The moderator told us that “these women have agreed to come to us 
as a team and work together to help us figure out how we might begin to 
deal much more effectively . . . with issues of inclusion, empowerment, 
diversity.” To keep our spirits high, we were taught the words to a round, 
which we dutifully sang: 

We have come this far by strength, 

Leaning on each other. 

Trusting in each other’s words. 

We never failed each other yet. 

Singing, oh, oh, oh. Can’t turn around. 

We have come this far by strength. 

After several minutes of singing and still no Smeal, panelist Angela (the 
former dancer) took the mike to tell about “ouch experiences.” An “ouch” 
is when you experience racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism, 
ageism, or lookism. One of Angela’s biggest ouches came after her lesbian 
support group splintered into two factions, black and white. Tension then 
developed in her black group between those whose lovers were black and 
those whose lovers were white. “Those of us in the group who had white 

Women Under Siege 


lovers were immediately targeted. ... It turned into a horrible mess. . . . 
I ended up leaving that group for self-protection.” 

A weary Eleanor Smeal finally arrived and was pressed into immediate 
service. She confided that she was feeling discouraged about the feminist 
movement. “We need totally new concepts. ... In many ways it’s not 
working. ... It is so depressing. We are leaving ... the next generation 
[in a] mess.” Smeal’s liveliest moment came when she attacked “liberal 
males on the campus,” saying, “they have kept us apart. They have mar¬ 
ginalized our programs. We need fighting madness.” 

Despite the call to arms, Smeal’s talk was a downer, and the moderator 
acted quickly to raise our spirits: “What we want to do now is to dwell 
for a minute on success. . . . Think about the fact that we have been so 
successful in transforming the curriculum.” It was soon time for another 

We are sisters in a circle. 

We are sisters in a struggle. 

Sisters one and all. 

We are colors of the rainbow, 

Sisters one and all. 

As it happened, I did have a real sister (in the unexciting biological 
sense) with me at the conference. Louise and I were frankly relieved to 
have the singing interrupted by a coffee break. Cream was available, but 
perhaps not for long. The ecofeminist caucus had been pushing to elimi¬ 
nate all meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products at NWSA events. As the break 
ended, Phyllis, the panelist from the Mohawk nation, came around with 
two little puppets, a dog and a teddy bear, to inform us, “Teddy and his 
friend say it’s time to go back inside.” Louise, who is a psychologist, was 
beginning to find the conference professionally intriguing. 

Phyllis, who told us that in addition to her Mohawk ancestry she is 
French and Irish with traces of Algonquin, asked us to “take a moment 
to give ourselves a big hug. Let me remind us that the person we’re 
hugging is the most important person we have in our life.” She continued: 

Let’s do it again! Each and every one of you is my relative ... we 
are interconnected. We are interdependent. And we have respect. 
Those are principles. So, what would I need from you in a loving 
relationship, the reminder that I have gotten away from my princi¬ 
ples here; and to help me get back to my principles. Even if I have 
to say “ouch” and hug my puppets—or whatever I have to do. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

To conclude the empowerment panel session, a “feminist facilitator” led 
us in a “participatory experience.” She told us to turn to our neighbor 
and tell her what we liked most about the NWSA. 

After the morning session, Louise and I visited the exhibition hall. 
There, dozens of booths offered women’s studies books and parapherna¬ 
lia. Witchcraft and goddess worship supplies were in aisle one. Adjoining 
aisles featured handmade jewelry, leather crafts, ponchos, and other peas¬ 
ant apparel. One booth offered videos on do-it-yourself menstrual extrac¬ 
tions and home abortions for those who want to avoid “patriarchal 
medicine.” Though weak on scholarship, the conference was strong on 
workshops and film screenings. We were idly thinking of looking in on 
one of two movies: Sex and the Sandinistas and We're Talking Vulva . 

A feminist philosopher, Paula Rothenberg, spotted me and ap¬ 
proached. She knew I was a skeptic. “I am very uncomfortable having 
you here. I saw you taking notes. We are in the middle of working 
through our problems. I feel as if you have come into the middle of my 
dysfunctional family, and you are seeing us at the worst possible mo¬ 

But Professor Rothenberg s “dysfunctional family” has had many such 
moments. Ouchings and mass therapy are more the norm than the excep¬ 
tion. The year before, at a meeting of women’s studies program directors, 
everyone joined hands to form a “healing circle.” They also assumed the 
posture of trees experiencing rootedness and tranquility. Victim testimon¬ 
ials and healing rituals crowd out the reading of academic papers at 
NWSA conferences. I told Ms. Rothenberg that this was supposed to be 
an open conference and that I had every right to attend. But I did feel a 
bit sorry for her. As a philosopher she was trained to think analytically. 
Now she finds herself in a “dysfunctional family” whose faddish therapies 
even she must find fatuous. Still, she has her consolations. She is director 
of the “New Jersey Project: Integrating the Scholarship on Gender,” a 
state-funded educational reform movement to make the New Jersey cur¬ 
riculum more “women-centered.” Later that day, she would be boasting 
to fellow workshoppers about how sympathetic the New Jersey chancellor 
of education, Edward Goldberg, was to her goals. 

Ms. Rothenberg and the other Austin conferees run the largest growth 
area in the academy. Though their conferences may be untidy, they are 
politically astute on their campuses. They have strong influence in key 
areas, in English departments (especially freshman writing courses), 
French and Spanish departments, history departments, law schools, and 
divinity schools. They are disproportionately represented in dean of stu¬ 
dents’ offices, in dormitory administration, in harassment offices, in of- 

Women Under Siege 


fices of multicultural affairs, and in various counseling centers. They are 
quietly engaged in hundreds of well-funded projects to transform a cur¬ 
riculum that they regard as unacceptably “androcentric.” These con¬ 
sciousness-raisers are driving out the scholars on many campuses. Their 
moral authority comes from a widespread belief that they represent 
“women.” In fact, their gynocentric version of feminism falls far short of 
being representative. 

The conference received a warm letter from Governor Ann Richards 
welcoming us to the great state of Texas. The governor called the assem¬ 
bled feminists “the vanguard of the latest incarnation of the women’s 
movement” and praised them for their crucial leadership role. The NWSA 
audience broke into thunderous applause as the letter was read aloud. It 
is, however, unlikely that Governor Richards was aware of the witchcraft 
booths, the menstrual extraction videos, the teddy bear puppets, or the 
paranoid exposes of “phallocentric discourse”—let alone the implacable 
hostility to all exact thinking as “male.” 

Many foundations and government agencies are involved in making it 
financially possible for a lot of resentful and angry women to spread their 
divisive philosophy and influence. If I had my way, those who make the 
decisions to support them with generous grants would be required to 
view the tapes of the meetings they fund, and then asked to hug them¬ 
selves until they “ouch.” 

To understand how the women’s movement has changed, we must 
look back to its beginnings. On July 14, 1848, the following notice 
appeared in the Seneca County Courier: “A convention to discuss the 
social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women will be held in 
the Wesleyan Chapel, at Seneca Falls, N.Y., on Wednesday and Thursday, 
the 19th and 20th of July current; commencing at 10 o’clock a.m .” 31 The 
unsigned announcement had been drafted by four women meeting in the 
home of Richard Hunt, a wealthy reformer who had offered to help them 
organize the convention. Two of the women, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth 
Cady Stanton, were to become famous. The tea table on which they wrote 
the announcement is now on exhibit at the Smithsonian as a relic of the 
moment when American women began the political struggle to win such 
elementary rights as the right to divorce without losing property and 
children and the right to be educated, culminating in the right to vote 
and the attainment of full legal equality. 

The press immediately called them “sour old maids,” “childless 
women,” and “divorced wives” and implied that they would be ineffec- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

tual. These criticisms would always be made of feminists. In fact, the 
organizers of the Seneca Falls convention were exceptionally well-favored, 
well-adjusted, morally advanced women—and they were making social 
and political history. As for being old maids, that too was inaccurate. 
Stanton, the movement’s principal organizer and scribe, would have eight 
children. Nor was there anything sour about them. Referring to the 
women who participated in the Seneca Falls convention, Elizabeth Cady 
Stanton and Susan B. Anthony later wrote that ‘‘they had not in their own 
experience endured the coarser forms of tyranny resulting from unjust 
laws, or association with immoral and unscrupulous men, but they had 
souls large enough to feel the wrongs of others without being scarified in 
their own flesh.” 32 

The small notice brought more than three hundred women to Seneca 
Falls. The organizers were not quite certain how to go about putting 
together a convention, so they “resigned themselves to a faithful perusal 
of various masculine productions.” 33 They reviewed the procedures of 
temperance and abolitionist conventions to see how they had been man¬ 
aged, and with the help of several sympathetic and experienced men, they 
went ahead with their history-making program. 

The convention voted to adopt a “Declaration of Sentiments” written 
by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who adapted the words of Jefferson’s “Decla¬ 
ration of Independence” but specified that the liberties demanded were 
for women as well as men. It opened thus: 

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one 
portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the 
earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occu¬ 
pied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle 
them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they 
should declare the causes that impel them to such a course. 34 

And she went on to speak of the truth we all hold to be self-evident, that 
“all men and women are created equal.” 

The organizers presented a list of grievances, detailing injuries that 
women suffer at the hands of men. Among them: 

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the 
elective franchise. ... He has compelled her to submit to laws, in 
the formation of which she had no voice . . . thereby leaving her 
without representation in the halls of legislation. ... He has made 
her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. ... In the cove- 

Women Under Siege 


nant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her 
husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master— 
the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to 
administer chastisement. 35 

Seneca Falls focused on specific injustices of the kind that social policy 
could repair by making the laws equitable. In thinking about that first 
women’s conference, it is helpful to remember the state of the average 
American woman in the mid-nineteenth century. Consider the story of 
Hester Vaughan. In 1869, at the age of twenty, she had been deserted by 
her husband. She found work in a wealthy Philadelphia home where the 
man of the house seduced her and, when she became pregnant, fired her. 
In a state of terrible indigence, she gave birth alone in an unheated rented 
room, collapsing minutes afterward. By the time she was discovered, the 
baby had died. She was charged with murder. No lawyer represented her 
at her trial, and she was not permitted to testify. An all-male jury found 
her guilty, and the judge sentenced her to death. 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony learned of her plight 
and organized a campaign to help her. One protest meeting drew nearly 
a thousand women. Here is how the historian Elisabeth Griffith describes 
it: “They demanded a pardon for Vaughan, an end to the double standard 
of morality, the right of women to serve as jurors, and the admission of 
women to law schools. . . . According to Stanton, Vaughan’s trial by a 
jury of men . . . illustrated the indignity and injustice of women’s legal 
status.” 36 

Vaughan was pardoned. More crucially, her champions and their suc¬ 
cessors went on to win for American women in general full equality before 
the law, including the right to vote, the right to hold property even in 
marriage, the right to divorce, and the right to equal education. 

The aims of the Seneca Falls activists were clearly stated, finite, and 
practicable. They would eventually be realized because they were 
grounded in principles—recognized constitutional principles—that were 
squarely in the tradition of equity, fairness, and individual liberty. Stan¬ 
ton’s reliance on the Declaration of Independence was not a ploy; it was 
a direct expression of her own sincere creed, and it was the creed of the 
assembled men and women. Indeed, it is worth remembering that Seneca 
Falls was organized by both men and women and that men actively 
participated in it and were welcomed. 37 Misandrism (hostility to men, the 
counterpart to misogyny) was not a notable feature of the women’s move¬ 
ment until our own times. 

A 1992 meeting of the American Association of University Women 


Who Stole Feminism? 

held at Mills College in Oakland, California, shows how far modem 
feminism has come—or gone. 38 Mills had been much in the news two 
years before, when its board announced its decision to go the way of 
colleges like Vassar and Bennington in admitting male students. Televised 
film footage showed sobbing, hysterical young women protesting. So 
distraught were they at the prospect of allowing men into Mills that the 
trustees revoked the decision. When the reversal was announced, the 
cameras rolled again, this time showing students sobbing with joy and 
relief. Mills on the West Coast, like Smith on the East Coast, remains 
exclusively female. 

As at most gender feminist gatherings, the Mills College meeting had 
almost no men. One man, however, did figure prominently in a panel 
discussion called “The Perils and Pleasures of Feminist Teaching.” Ra¬ 
phael Atlas, professor of music at Smith College, had come to talk about 
what it is like to be a male feminist at a women’s college. His fellow 
panelists were Candice Taylor Hogan, assistant professor of history at 
Wheaton College in Massachusetts, and Faye Crosby, a psychology pro¬ 
fessor, also from Smith. Professor Hogan spoke first, reading a paper in 
which she described her trauma when Wheaton College went coed. “I 
was aghast, saddened, appalled, and angered. . . . The transition was bru¬ 
tal, painful, and demoralizing.” Before it could be made clear what her 
remarks had to do with the conference’s theme, “Balancing the Educa¬ 
tional Equation,” Raphael Atlas spoke. 

Raphael (as all the participants called him) was earnest and nonthreat¬ 
ening. He, too, read his paper because, he explained, its contents were 
too emotional for a more informal delivery. He told us that being a male 
feminist at Smith College filled his life with “great anxiety.” The course 
he gave last spring on women composers made him feel like “an impos¬ 
ter.” He asked, “Is it honest to identify my project as feminist? . . . Am I 
just one of those social and cultural forces trying to police women’s 

As we pondered these questions, Raphael told us about the many 
colleagues and students who believe that the few males at Smith “poi¬ 
soned” the atmosphere. He said in anguished tones, “What do these 
women’s voices say to me? I am alien. I do not belong. I believe them .” I 
felt a bit less sorry for Raphael when he finished his confession by telling 
us that he finds it all “exciting.” 

It was Professor Crosby’s turn. “In feminist pedagogy,” she explained, 
“you do not just theorize, but take action.” For homework, she had 
instructed her introductory psychology students at Smith to buy three 
condoms, making eye contact with the vendor. She thought the assign- 

Women Under Siege 


ment had been successful until several students pointed out that it was 
“heterosexist.” It marginalized lesbians. They told her about dental dams 
—condomlike devices useful for safe lesbian oral sex. 

Professor Crosby told us that during Parents’ Weekend, she had invited 
her students and their parents to a small interactive lecture. Condoms 
were again a theme. The class played a “condom relay race,” in which 
parents and students raced each other to see which group of five could 
put five condoms on an unpeeled banana without breaking the banana. 
Said Professor Crosby, referring to the condom, “They had to own it and 
enjoy it.” 

Once again Ms. Crosby thought all had gone well. She had been careful 
to make mention of the dental dams. But angry students pointed out to 
her that though she had shown the parents the dental dams, she hadn’t 
used them in the relay races. They’d complained, she said, that “it was as 
if you said, oh, well, here are the dental dams—boring, insignificant 
lesbian sex . . . now let’s get to the really great and fun heterosexual sex.” 
Professor Crosby ended by telling us about her guilt over having been 
“exclusionary.” “I felt terrible!” Like Raphael, she was clearly exhilarated 
by how terrible she felt. 

The workshop had been a bit unconventional, but until that point all 
had been decorous. Decorum was irreparably shattered by “Rita” from the 
City College of San Francisco, who spoke loudly and angrily from the 
rear of the room. Addressing Raphael, she said, “First of all, why did you 
read your paper? As a poet and someone who cares about language, I 
found it extremely dull to have to sit though all of that.” But then Rita 
went on to say she was so upset that she too preferred to read her 
statement: “Raphael said he was a male feminist: that is an oxymoron. My 
deep belief is that men cannot be feminists. They have no place in 
women-centered spheres. Raphael is a womb envier and a feminist wan¬ 
nabe—a poseur in our midst. Let him take his voice into an all-male 

Terry, a day care provider from Oakland, was very moved by Rita’s 
declaration. “I agree with Rita. I did not come to a workshop to hear 
that” she said, referring to the male voice. 

Ms. Crosby, who was also the moderator, looked a bit nervous. It 
seemed clear that she should come to the defense of her beleaguered 
Smith colleague. But she was patently intrigued by what she described as 
an “affectively charged exchange.” “Rita, your attack on Raphael was 
extremely rude,” she said. “You are breaking norms by attacking our 
speaker like that. And that is wrong. But,” she continued, “as a feminist, 
I believe in breaking norms.” 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Then Raphael spoke up, although he looked at the floor as he spoke. 
“It is a dilemma. Little parts of me agree with Rita,” he said. “Men do not 
belong at Smith. So why am I there? In addition to nitty-gritty issues of 
job market and my modest research projects—I still ask: do 1 belong 
there? It saddens me, demoralizes me, and depresses me. Yet I feel anger 
toward you, Rita. I feel you have typed me. I wonder if it is possible for 
us to have a dialogue? On the flight home I will be thinking about what I 
might have said.” 

Ms. Crosby was now in her element: “One aspect of the patriarchy is 
that we have to keep to schedules. But before breaking up, let us go 
around the room and see if anyone wants to share their feelings.” She 
moved about, Phil Donahue-style, soliciting comments. Her first taker 
was a woman who said, “My heart is pounding with Rita and Terry. ... I 
was upset to see a man on the panel. I thought there would be only 
women; I was not expecting this sort of—difference.” 

My sister Louise spoke up. “I like differences between people. I try to 
heighten differences between people. I like individuals.” Ms. Crosby 
moved along hastily to another speaker. “My name is Anthea; I am the 
daughter of Beatrice, who is the daughter of her mother, who was a vegan 
and a suffragette. Let’s clap for everybody.” Most people did clap. Then 
Raphael called out, “Rita and I inhabit different spheres. I am a white 
male, age 30-34. That is difficult for me.” 

A gray-haired woman in the back, an AAUW member and an old- 
school feminist, ventured meekly: “I am in favor of educating our young 
people, girls and boys, to accept one another as equals.” But before 
anyone could pounce on that particular heresy, it was time to go. 

The workshoppers filed out to attend the next event. Raphael disap¬ 
peared completely. At the next workshop all the panelists were women, 
which Rita’s faction would undoubtedly find more comfortable. As my 
sister and I were leaving the seminar room, we passed a jubilant Professor 
Crosby speaking to a Smith College student and her visiting parents. The 
parents had attended the workshop and were looking a little bemused. “I 
consider that session a great success,” said Crosby, “because it was the 
most like a Smith College class than any of the other events so far!” 

Gender feminists do not relish criticism, and there are no forums where 
old and new feminists meet for a free exchange of competing ideas. I did 
learn of one such encounter that occurred spontaneously in the spring of 
1991 at a conference called “Glasnost in Two Cultures: Soviet Russian/ 
North American Women’s Writing,” sponsored by feminist scholars at the 
New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University. The 

Women Under Siege 


episode was recounted by the Russian-American writer David Gurevich, 
who attended the conference as a translator. 39 

A small group of talented and outspoken Russian women poets and 
novelists had been invited to attend the conference, which began, inaus- 
piciously, with the American author Grace Paley taking the visitors on a 
tour of the Lower East Side for a close-up look at America’s slums, com¬ 
plete with panhandlers and junkies. The visitors, who had since child¬ 
hood seen Soviet propaganda films highlighting American misery, were 
not duly appreciative. 

At the meeting itself, the ideological gulf between the Russian and 
American feminists became more obvious. The literary critic Natalya Ad- 
zhikhina championed the idea of throwing out the canon, an idea that 
was well received all around until it slowly dawned on the gender femi¬ 
nists that Ms. Adzhikhina was referring to the official Communist Party 
canon. She and most of the other Russian writers wanted to return to the 
canon of masterworks that American feminists consider “masculinist.” 

When the other Russian writers spoke, they too uttered blasphemies, 
such as “There is only good and bad literature—not male and female.” It 
became shockingly clear that the Russians were seeking to liberate art 
from politics, including sexual politics. Professor Linda Kauffman of the 
University of Maryland was alarmed and offended: “I don’t want to sound 
like I am from California—which actually I am—but this is, like, heavy- 
duty denial.” Ms. Kauffman went on to deliver an impromptu sermon on 
the evils of the FBI, Jesse Helms, and censorship at the NEA. She pointed 
out that the “MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour” was funded by AT&T and 
spoke of a women’s gulag. 40 As she continued in this familiar vein, several 
of the Russian women slowly made their way to the ladies’ room, the only 
place where they were free to smoke. 

When it was again the Russian women’s turn to speak, the blasphemies 
poured forth once more. Olesya Nikolayeva, the Moscow poet, told the 
American feminists how socialism had denied women their femininity, 
how it broke the tradition of moral and spiritual women in Russian 
literature, and how it broke the Christian tradition without which Russian 
literature after Pushkin was unthinkable. She insisted that the attack on 
religion had been fatal to literature, since religion had always been such a 
sustaining force for writers. She concluded by citing disturbing statistics 
about juvenile crime in Moscow and encouraging all the women in the 
audience to pay more attention to their traditional role as “keepers of the 

Catharine Stimpson, a director at the MacArthur Foundation and 


Who Stole Feminism? 

one of the founding mothers of the New Feminism, could no longer 
contain herself. She warned of a “new totalitarianism” and said that work¬ 
ing mothers could not be blamed for runaways and delinquency: the state 
should find a solution. Domna Stanton, a Michigan women’s studies 
professor who had organized the conference, warned of the perils of 
“white male morality.” 

A young novelist, Valerya Narbikova, took the microphone and spoke 
about her writers’ group, the New Amazons. The American feminists were 
beginning to hope they could finally make contact when Ms. Narbikova 
announced, “It is just a name. We have nothing to do with feminism.” 

“Nothing at all?” the disbelieving critic Hortense Spiller asked. Gure¬ 
vich describes the scene: “Wine glass in hand, Valerya was pure artiste. 
‘Nope.’. . . Ladylike pretenses were dropped. The women were tearing 
the mike from each other’s hand. . . . Stanton was soon left alone—her 
faction, including Stimpson, had fled quietly—and she was actually 
wringing her hands.” Tatyana Tolstaya, a writer whose short stories had 
been recently acclaimed by American critics, thundered: “You . . . keep 
coming to Russia and we keep telling you these things! Why do you never 
listen to us? Why do you think you know more about our life than we 

Undoubtedly, the gender feminists left the conference pitying the be¬ 
nighted Russian writers for being so retrograde in their attitudes to gen¬ 
der. To me, those Russian women are the hope of feminism—a new 
avant-garde. I wish they would all emigrate to the United States. They 
know firsthand about the terrible consequences of group loyalty based on 
groupthink; they are utterly immune to ideological blandishments. 

Since reading Gurevich’s account of the New York University encoun¬ 
ter, I have been attending feminist meetings in a more hopeful frame of 
mind. When some gender feminist is in the middle of yet another mind- 
numbing expose of the evils of male culture, I find myself looking about 
for some innocent or intrepid soul who looks as if she might speak up 
and say what I, as an observer, must often refrain from saying. It hasn’t 
happened yet, but now I know it is not out of the question. 

Chapter 2 

Indignation, Resentment, 
and Collective Guilt 

Every day the public is witness to feminist outrage at how badly 
women are treated: in the workplace, in the courts, on dates, in marriages, 
in the schools—by men mostly, but sometimes by other women. Much 
of what is reported is true, and some of it is very disturbing. 

Of course, the abuse or slighting of women must be made known and 
should arouse indignation. Plato himself recognized the role of righteous 
indignation as a mainspring of moral action. In his metaphor, indignation 
is the good steed helping the charioteer to stay on the path of virtue by 
controlling the vicious, wayward steed straining to go its own brutish 
way. It is the “spirited element” in the soul that supplies the wise person 
with the emotional energy, the horsepower, to curb the appetites so that 
he or she may act virtuously. 

But most of those who publicly bemoan the plight of women in Amer¬ 
ica are moved by more dubious passions and interests. Theirs is a femi¬ 
nism of resentment that rationalizes and fosters a wholesale rancor in 
women that has little to do with moral indignation. Resentment may 


Who Stole Feminism? 

begin in and include indignation, but it is by far the more abiding pas¬ 
sion. Resentment is “harbored” or “nurtured”; it “takes root” in a subject 
(the victim) and remains directed at another (the culprit). It can be vicar¬ 
ious—you need not have harmed me personally, but if I identify with 
someone you have harmed, I may resent you. Such resentment is very 
common and may easily be as strong and intense as resentment occa¬ 
sioned by direct injury. In a way it is stronger, for by enlarging the class 
of victims to include others, it magnifies the villainy as well. 

Having demarcated a victimized “us” with whom I now feel solidarity, 
I can point to one victim and say, “In wronging her, he has betrayed his 
contempt for us all,” or “Anyone who harms a woman harms us all,” or 
simply “What he did to her, he did to all of us.” The next step is to regard 
the individual who wronged “us” as himself representative of a group, 
giving our animus a larger target. This I may do quite “reasonably” by 
adopting a position from which people like the perpetrator (male, rich, 
etc.) are regarded as “the kind of people” who exploit people like “us.” 
My social reality has now been dichotomized into two groups politically 
at odds, one of whom dominates and exploits the other. 

Susan Faludi, author of Backlash and one of the more popular resenters 
of our time, reminds us of the feminist truism that feminist anger comes 
when women construe their individual experiences in a political frame¬ 
work: “When you’re not able to see your experience as political, you’re 
not able to be angry about it.” 1 Sandra Bartky, who is an expert on 
something she calls the “phenomenology of feminist consciousness,” puts 
it succinctly: “Feminist consciousness is consciousness of victimization . . . 
to come to see oneself as a victim” (her emphasis). 2 

Once I get into the habit of regarding women as a subjugated gender, 
I’m primed to be alarmed, angry, and resentful of men as oppressors of 
women. I am also prepared to believe the worst about them and the harm 
they cause to women. I may even be ready to fabricate atrocities. Eleanor 
Smeal spoke in Austin of the need to get women fighting mad. Neither 
she nor any of the other feminist leaders and thinkers who promote the 
sexual politics of resentment and anger seem to be aware of how inju¬ 
riously divisive their version of feminism is—or if they are, they seem not 
to care. 

Consider how Patricia Ireland, the president of NOW, speaks of her 
seven years as a flight attendant for Pan Am: “I thought of myself as a 
professional. But what I really did was go down the aisle and take people’s 
garbage and thank them for it. That’s what women have been doing. 
We’ve been taking their garbage and thanking them for it. We’ve got to 
stop.” 3 Ms. Ireland is telling us how easy it is (in a society that routinely 

Indignation, Resentment... 


humiliates women) for women to deceive themselves into thinking they 
are doing something dignified when they are “really” doing something 
demeaning. She speaks of “their garbage,” meaning “men’s,” though prob¬ 
ably half the passengers were women. She asks us to note the shame of 
taking their garbage and having to thank “them” for it. Would she be in 
favor of having the airlines phase out women flight attendants, replacing 
them with men? But Ireland knows what she is doing. By so construing 
male/female relations, she is doing what any political leader does in time 
of war: get potential allies angry and unified behind the effort to defeat 
the enemy. 

Resentment is not a wholesome passion. Unlike indignation, it is not 
an ethical passion. But because it often originates in moral outrage at real 
injustice (from wife battering to job discrimination), resentment can be 
made to sound like a commendable passion for social justice. The idea 
that men are generally culpable has the status of a first principle among 
some establishment feminists. 

According to Marilyn French, “The entire system of female oppression 
rests on ordinary men, who maintain it with a fervor and dedication to 
duty that any secret police force might envy. What other system can 
depend on almost half the population to enforce a policy daily, publicly 
and privately, with utter reliability?” 4 It is a system that uses threat as 
well as force to exploit and humiliate women. 

As long as some men use physical force to subjugate females, all 
men need not. The knowledge that some men do suffices to threaten 
all women. Beyond that, it is not necessary to beat up a woman to 
beat her down. A man can simply refuse to hire women in well-paid 
jobs, extract as much or more work from women than men but pay 
them less, or treat women disrespectfully at work or at home. He 
can fail to support a child he has engendered, demand the woman 
he lives with wait on him like a servant. He can beat or kill the 
woman he claims to love; he can rape women, whether mate, ac¬ 
quaintance, or stranger; he can rape or sexually molest his daugh¬ 
ters, nieces, stepchildren, or the children of a woman he claims to 
love. The vast majority of men in the world do one or more of the above 
[her emphasis]. 5 

In French’s view, male atrocity and criminal abuse are pandemic. We 
must, however, insist that the burden of proof for so broad a claim be on 
her. Even if we accept the premise that men and women are at odds, the 
factual question of guilt cannot be begged—at least not in this country. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Moreover, we cannot help noticing that French’s contempt for men is 
accompanied by a strong bias in favor of women: “While men strut and 
fret their hour upon the stage, shout in bars and sports arenas, thump 
their chests or show their profiles in the legislatures, and explode incred¬ 
ible weapons in an endless contest for status, an obsessive quest for 
symbolic ‘proof’ of their superiority, women quietly keep the world 
going.” 6 

Resenter feminists are convinced that men generally take every oppor¬ 
tunity to exploit women and that they often delight in humiliating them 
physically and mentally. “Given the prevalence of rape and given the 
socio-cultural supports for sexual aggression and violence against women 
in this society, perhaps we should be asking men who don’t rape, why 
not! In other words, we should be asking what factors prevent men from 
abusing women in rape-supportive societies.” 7 That is the view of Diana 
Scully, author of Understanding Sexual Violence. 

Recently several male students at Vassar were falsely accused of date 
rape. After their innocence was established, the assistant dean of students, 
Catherine Comins, said of their ordeal: “They have a lot of pain, but it is 
not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally 
initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I did not 
violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they 
say I did?’ These are good questions.” 8 Dean Comins clearly feels justified 
in trumping the common law principle “presumed innocent until proven 
guilty” by a new feminist principle, “guilty even if proven innocent.” 
Indeed, she believes that the students are not really innocent after all. 
How so? Because, being male and being brought up in the patriarchal 
culture, they could easily have done what they were falsely accused of 
having done, even though they didn’t actually do it. Where men are 
concerned, Comins quite sincerely believes in collective guilt. Moreover, 
she feels she can rely on her audience to be in general agreement with 
her on this. 

The idea of collective guilt may sound like the theological doctrine of 
original sin, but in Christianity, at least, it applies equally to all human 
beings. Racists and gender feminists are more “discriminating.” 

In the spring of 1993, nine women students, who were taking a course 
called “Contemporary Issues in Feminist Art” at the University of Mary¬ 
land, distributed posters and fliers all over the campus with the names of 
dozens of male students under the heading “Notice: These Men Are Po¬ 
tential Rapists.” The women knew nothing whatever about the bearers of 
the names; they had simply chosen them at random from the university 

Indignation, Resentment... 


directory to use in their class project. The instructor, Josephine Withers, 
would not comment to the press. 9 

The New Feminists are a powerful source of mischief because their 
leaders are not good at seeing things as they are. Resenter feminists like 
Faludi, French, Heilbrun and MacKinnon speak of backlash, siege, and 
an undeclared war against women. But the condition they describe is 
mythic—with no foundation in the facts of contemporary American life. 
Real-life men have no war offices, no situation rooms, no battle plans 
against women. There is no radical militant wing of a masculinist move¬ 
ment. To the extent one can speak at all of a gender war, it is the New 
Feminists themselves who are waging it. 

Gender feminists are fond of telling men who don’t realize the depth 
of women’s anger and resentment that “they just don’t get it.” Feminist 
leaders immediately rallied to the side of Lorena Bobbitt, the Virginia 
woman accused of having severed her sleeping husband’s penis but who 
in turn accused him of having raped her. The Virginia chapter of NOW 
set up a support line for Ms. Bobbitt headed by Virginia’s NOW coordi¬ 
nator, Denise Lee. 10 In Vanity Fair, Kim Masters reported on “Lorena 
supporters who have transformed the V-for-Victory sign into a symbol of 
solidarity by making scissorlike motions with their fingers.” 11 Kim Gandy, 
executive vice president of NOW, talked of the many women “who have 
gone through this and probably wish they had a chance to get their own 
revenge.” 12 

The journalist Daniel Wattenberg rightly saw in all this the presump¬ 
tion of John Wayne Bobbitt’s guilt long before the case had gone to trial. 
“It is assumed that he routinely beat his wife over a period of years. It is 
assumed that he raped her the night she castrated him.” It hardly matters 
that Mr. Bobbitt has since been found not guilty by the courts. Com¬ 
menting on the castration on “20/20,” Patricia Ireland said, “The depth of 
anger that was plumbed by this and the response of support that comes 
for Lorena Bobbitt comes from the depth of anger, of feeling there has not 
been adequate resources and recourse and redress of the terrible violence 
that women face.” But, sticking to what facts we have, all we can say is 
that Lorena was enraged to the point of violence. The personal tragedy of 
this unhappy couple has been appropriated as a symbol of righteous 
feminist revenge. The in-joke among Lorena’s feminist admirers is that 
Lorena has since been greeting John by saying, “Now do you get it?” 

When collective guilt is assigned (to males, to Germans, to Moslems, 


Who Stole Feminism? 

etc.), children are usually included. Explaining why Minnesota has 
adopted strict sexual harassment policies for children as young as five, 
Sue Sattel, the “sex equity specialist” for the Minnesota Department of 
Education, points out that “serial killers tell interviewers they started 
sexually harassing at age 10, and got away with it.” 13 

Nan Stein, a project director at the Wellesley College Center for Re¬ 
search on Women who specializes in sexual harassment by juveniles, is 
angry with Montana school officials and teachers for ignoring the “gen¬ 
dered terrorism” in their schoolyards. 

Friday “Flip-Up Day” is a weekly occurrence at many elementary 
schools in Montana. Every Friday, boys chase girls around the 
school playgrounds; those girls who have worn skirts are fair game 
—their skirts will be flipped up, not once, but as many times as 
possible by as many boys as can get them. School administrators 
. . . have seen no reason to intervene or to punish the perpetrators. 
Their silence has allowed this gendered terrorism on the playground 
to continue. 14 

Boys who tease girls by flipping up their skirts should be dealt with 
decisively and perhaps severely. But only women who view the world 
through “sex/gender” lenses would see in children’s schoolyard rudeness 
the making of serial killers and gender terrorists. 

Should the rudeness even be regarded in sexual terms? The gender 
monitors believe it should be and that girls should be made aware of its 
true nature. One of the goals of the sex equity experts is to teach little 
girls to be resentful of boys’ pranks by pointing out that what they are 
doing is sexual harassment and against the law. Bernice Sandler, a gender 
relations specialist at Washington’s Center for Women Policy Studies, 
offers harassment workshops to elementary school children. At one work¬ 
shop, a little girl told about a classmate who had pushed her down and 
tickled her. Ms. Sandler made sure to put the boy’s act in perspective: 
“Now, you have to ask, what is this boy doing, throwing girls to the 
ground? This happens to be a sexual offense in New York, and in most 
states.” 15 

The presumption of sexual guilt continues as children grow up. In 
more and more public schools and colleges, we find a dynamic group of 
feminist reformers—harassment officers, women’s studies professors, res¬ 
ident hall staff, assorted deans and assistant deans, and sex equity experts 
—who regard male sexuality with alarm and seek ways to control it. The 
Rutgers University anthropologist Lionel Tiger has described the contem- 

Indignation, Resentment... 


porary sexual environment with its hysteria over harassment and date 
rape as a reversal of the one described in The Scarlet Letter: “ It’s the male 
who now bears the stigma of alleged sexual violation.” 16 

If they do, not many notice it. The gender feminist ideology affects 
women far more deeply. Many are “converted” to a view of the society 
they inhabit as a patriarchal system of oppression. For most, this happens 
in college. Laurie Martinka, a women’s studies graduate from Vassar, 
talked to me about her personal transformation. “You’re never the same 
again. Sometimes I even bemoan the fact that so much has changed. I am 
tired of always ripping things apart because they exclude the perspective 
of women. . . . You become so aware of things. And it is hard. My mother 
cannot accept it. It is hard for her because I have changed so completely.” 
Anne Package, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, told me that 
students talk among themselves about this keen new awareness: “We call 
it ‘being on the verge’ or ‘bottoming out.’ You are down on everything. 
Nothing is funny anymore. It hits you like a ton of bricks. You hit rock 
bottom and ask: how can I live my life?” When I suggested to her that 
many would count her and her classmates among the world’s more for¬ 
tunate young women, she bristled. “We still suffer psychological oppres¬ 
sion. If you feel like the whole world is on top of you, then it is.” 

I was intrigued, though, by her expression “being on the verge.” On 
the verge of what? Though the expression suggests a transitory experi¬ 
ence, being on the verge is construed as the permanent condition of 
women who feel they have achieved a realistic awareness of their plight 
in male-dominated society. Such women sometimes organize into small 
but powerful groups within institutions they regard as masculinist bas¬ 
tions and where they make their presence felt in no uncertain terms. 

The Boston Globe is New England’s largest and most prestigious news¬ 
paper. In 1991, some two dozen women editors, managers, and colum¬ 
nists (including Ellen Goodman) formed a group called “Women on the 
Verge” to counter what senior education editor Muriel Cohen called the 
“macho newsroom.” 17 The “vergies,” as they have come to be known, 
have some traditional equity feminist concerns about salaries and pro¬ 
motions; but they have also taken up arms against such things as the use 
of sports metaphors in news stories and the traditional lunchtime basket¬ 
ball game, which symbolizes to them the once-powerful and exclusionary 
old-boy network (though that complaint is unfounded because women 
are welcome to play, and some do). Defending the basketball games, 
editor Ben Bradlee, Jr., says: “All it is really is a bunch of people who 
want to get exercise and play a game. In the current conspiracy that’s 
abroad, it’s me and the other editors perhaps cutting secret deals and 


Who Stole Feminism? 

giving the boys the best stories.” 18 Ms. Cohen expressed concern to editor 
Jack Driscoll over the “hormones that are running around here.” 19 Vergies 
are also irritated by “the strutting zone”—a corridor where some of the 
managerial males like to pace before deciding on the day’s lead stories. 
The Women on the Verge at the Globe are feared but not loved. Since 
their advent, the newspaper has known no internal peace. 

David Nyhan, a senior editor and syndicated columnist, has been on 
the paper for more than twenty years and is part of what is known as its 
liberal “Irish mafia.” He is an old-style newspaperman who wears his 
sleeves rolled up and has a booming voice and a penchant for bawdy 
humor. It was just a matter of time before he got into trouble with the 
Women on the Verge. On April 20, 1993, he was on his way to play in 
the infamous noontime basketball match when he spotted a fellow re¬ 
porter, Brian McGrory, and invited him to join the game. Brian was on 
assignment and had a bad knee that day, so he declined. Nyhan persisted, 
but when it was clear that McGrory was not going to play, Nyhan jeered 
him as “pussy-whipped.” 

Betsy Lehman, a vergie, overheard the remark in passing and made it 
clear that she was very offended. Nyhan, who hadn’t realized anyone was 
listening, immediately apologized. Sensing he was in trouble, he placed a 
memo on his door restating his remorse. He went around the newsroom 
and again apologized to any woman he could find. But he was about to 
be made an example of, and nothing could stop it. Already several 
Women on the Verge had interpreted his statement as an insult to a 
woman editor who, they assumed, had given Brian McGrory his assign¬ 
ment. McGrory denies it was a woman. 

The Globe management had just spent thousands of dollars on sensitiv¬ 
ity workshops. Senior editor Matt Storin drew the moral: “Coming off of 
that experience [the workshops], I for one am all the more saddened by 
today’s experience.” 20 Storin warned the staff that “remarks that are ra¬ 
cially and sexually offensive to co-workers will not be tolerated here. 
Those who utter such remarks will be subject to disciplinary procedures.” 
The publisher fined Nyhan $1,250 and suggested he donate that sum to 
a charity of Ms. Lehman’s choice. 

The vergies had made their point, but the men of the Globe (and some 
women reporters who sympathized with them) had been alerted to the 
climate of resentment they lived in. They began to react. A price list was 
circulated: “babe” cost $350, “bitch” went for $900, “pussy-whipped,” 
$1,250. Someone started a David Nyhan relief fund. (The fine was even¬ 
tually rescinded.) Even some of the vergies were uncomfortable. Ellen 
Goodman said that she disapproved of the fine: “You do not want to get 

Indignation, Resentment... 


to the point where everybody feels every sentence is being monitored.” 
But that is just the point the Globe had gotten to . 21 

The Globe incident is emblematic of the “achievements” of the New 
Feminists elsewhere. They have achieved visibility and influence, but they 
have not succeeded in winning the hearts of American women. Most 
American feminists, unwilling to be identified as part of a cause they find 
alien, have renounced the label and have left the field to the resenters. 
The harmful consequences of giving unchallenged rein to the ideologues 
are nowhere more evident than in the universities. 

Chapter 3 

Transforming the 

I am grateful. . . to the students of my women’s studies 
ovular at Washington University in the spring semester of 

1982 } 

This little acknowledgment, in the preface of a book by the feminist 
philosopher Joyce Trebilcot, is one of the more amusing examples of the 
feminist effort to purge language of sexist bias. Trebilcot considers “sem¬ 
inar” offensively “masculinist,” so she has replaced it by “ovular,” which 
she regards as its feminist equivalent. Linguistic reform is one charac¬ 
teristic activity of feminist academics, and biological coinages are very 
much in favor. Feminist literary critics and feminist theologians (who call 
themselves thealogians) may refer to their style of interpreting texts as 
“gynocriticism” or “clitoral hermeneutics,” rejecting more traditional ap¬ 
proaches as inadmissibly “phallocentric.” 

Does it matter that academic feminists speak of replacing seminars 
with “ovulars,” history with “herstory,” and theology with “thealogy”? 
Should it concern us that most teachers of women’s studies think of 
knowledge as a “patriarchal construction”? It should, because twenty 
years ago the nation’s academies offered fewer than twenty courses in 
women’s studies; today such courses number in the tens of thousands. 
Such rapid growth, which even now shows little signs of abating, is un¬ 
precedented in the annals of higher education. The feminist coloniza- 

Transforming the Academy 


tion of the American academy warrants study. What is driving it? Is it a 
good thing? 

Women’s studies, though officially an academic discipline, is con¬ 
sciously an arm of the women’s movement, dedicated to a utopian ideal 
of social transformation. In the words of the preamble to the National 
Women’s Studies Association constitution, “Women’s Studies owes its 
existence to the movement for the liberation of women; the feminist 
movement exists because women are oppressed. . . . Women’s Studies, 
then, is equipping women ... to transform the world to one that will be 
free of all oppression .” 2 

The goal may be salutary, but equipping students to “transform the 
world” is not quite the same as equipping them with the knowledge they 
need for getting on in the world. Much of what students learn in women’s 
studies classes is not disciplined scholarship but feminist ideology. They 
learn that the traditional curriculum is largely a male construction and 
not to be trusted. They learn that in order to rid society of sexism and 
racism one must first realign the goals of education, purging the curricu¬ 
lum of its white male bias and “reconceptualizing” its subject matter. 

The majority of women in the academy are not feminist activists. They 
are mainstream equity feminists: they embrace no special feminist doc¬ 
trines; they merely want for women what they want for everyone—a “fair 
field and no favors.” Equity feminists, regarding themselves as engaged 
on equal terms in contributing to a universal culture of humanity, do not 
represent themselves as speaking for Women. They make no dubious 
claims to unmask a social reality that most women fail to perceive. Their 
moderate, unpretentious posture has put them in the shadow of the less 
humble and more vocal gender feminists. 

The gender feminists are convinced they are in the vanguard of a 
conceptual revolution of historic proportions, and their perspective, pred¬ 
icated on the “discovery” of the sex/gender system, is a beguiling one. 
Carolyn Heilbrun exults in the conviction that the New Feminist thought 
is comparable to the intellectual revolutions produced by Copernicus, 
Darwin, and Freud . 3 Gerda Lerner, professor of history at the University 
of Wisconsin and author of the influential book The Creation oj Patriarchy , 
warns that attempts to describe what is now going on in women’s schol¬ 
arship “would be like trying to describe the Renaissance—ten years after 
it began .” 4 Sociologist Jessie Bernard compares the feminist scholars to 
the philosophes of the French Enlightenment, characterizing the explosion 
of research in women’s scholarship as “the storming of the Bastille” or 
“the shot heard round the world.” “Academia will never be the same 
again,” she claims . 5 Alison Jaggar, director of women’s studies at the 


Who Stole Feminism? 

University of Colorado, says, “We’re developing a whole reconstruction 
of the world from the perspective of women, with the keyword being 
‘womencenteredness.’ ” 6 

The gender feminists are exuberantly confident that they are qualified 
to overhaul the American educational system. Unlike other, more modest 
reformers, these women are convinced that their insights into social real¬ 
ity uniquely equip them to understand the educational needs of American 
women. Their revolution is thus not confined to “feminist theory.” On 
the contrary, it is essentially practical, pedagogical, and bureaucratic. 

Not all gender feminist academics teach women’s studies. Many are in 
administration. Some direct harassment centers. Others have controlling 
positions in such para-academic organizations as the Association of Amer¬ 
ican Colleges (AAC) or the American Association of University Women 
(AAUW). Some head women’s centers that do research on women. Still 
others head “curriculum transformation projects.” 

“The goal of feminist teaching,” says University of Massachusetts femi¬ 
nist philosopher Ann Ferguson, “is not only to raise consciousness about 
. . . male domination system but also to create women and men who are 
agents of social change .” 7 That motivation, powerfully enhanced by the 
gender feminists’ faith that they are privy to revolutionary insights into 
the nature of knowledge and society, inspires them with a missionary 
fervor unmatched by any other group in the contemporary academy. Not 
only do they pursue their mission in their classrooms, they are also 
involved in “transforming the academy” to render it more women-cen- 
tered. Gender feminists are at work in hundreds of transformation proj¬ 
ects for changing university curricula that they regard as inadmissibly 
“masculinist.” The bias of the traditional “white male curriculum” must 
be eliminated, and new programs that include women must replace those 
in which women are “absent,” “silent,” “invisible.” The whole “knowledge 
base” must be transformed. 

Gender feminists have been influential in the academy far beyond their 
numbers partly because their high zeal and single-mindedness brook no 
opposition; or rather, because they treat opposition to their exotic stand¬ 
point as opposition to the cause of women. University trustees, adminis¬ 
trators, foundation officers, and government officials tend generally to be 
sympathetic to women’s causes. Apart from an unwillingness to be con¬ 
sidered insensitive and retrograde, they are aware that women have been 
discriminated against and may still need special protections. So they want 
to do what is right. But when future historians go back to find out what 
happened to American universities at the end of the twentieth century 
that so weakened them, politicized them, and rendered them illiberal, 

Transforming the Academy 


anti-intellectual, and humorless places, they will find that among the 
principal causes of the decline was the failure of intelligent, powerful, and 
well-intentioned officials to distinguish between the reasonable and just 
cause of equity feminism and its unreasonable, unjust, ideological sister 
—gender feminism. 

At the 1992 National Women’s Studies Conference in Austin, Texas, 
that I described in chapter 1, the moderator urged us to “dwell for a 
moment on success. . . . Think about the fact that we have been so suc¬ 
cessful in transforming the curriculum.” My sister Louise, who attended 
the conference with me, has two sons in college and a daughter starting 
junior high, and this remark alarmed her. Having spent several hours 
with the Austin conferees, she had doubts about their competence and 
reasonableness. “What exactly did she mean?” she asked me. She did well 
to ask; for she had stumbled on an area of feminist activism that has gone 
virtually unnoticed by the public. What began as a reasonable attempt to 
redress the neglect of women in the curriculum has quietly become a 
potent force affecting the American classroom at every level, from the 
primary grades to graduate school. 

A nationwide feminist campaign to change the curriculum of the Amer¬ 
ican academy is receiving support from the highest strata of education 
and government. The Ford Foundation recently helped launch a National 
Clearinghouse for Curriculum Transformation Resources at Towson State 
University in Maryland, to give the growing number of transformation 
consultants in our nation’s schools quick access to resources. The Towson 
center provides consultants and project directors with readings on femi¬ 
nist pedagogy, samples of women-centered syllabi, lists of womencen- 
tered textbooks, and suggestions for women-centered audiovisual 
materials. It provides aspiring transformationists with manuals on how to 
start their own projects, as well as a list of resources to help them to 
“counter resistance.” 8 The transformation projects receive generous fund¬ 
ing from major foundations and from federal agencies such as the Wom¬ 
en’s Education Equity Act Program and the Fund for the Improvement of 
Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), as well as from the state governments 
of New Jersey, Tennessee, Montana, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Califor¬ 

In a recent book chronicling the triumphs of “the transformation move¬ 
ment,” Caryn McTighe Musil reports on the success of the “hundreds of 
curriculum transformation projects around the country since 1980.” 9 In 
fact, the transformationists have been at it for longer than that, but they 


Who Stole Feminism? 

are only now coming into their own. On April 16, 1993, more than eight 
hundred teachers, college professors, school administrators, and state 
officials gathered at the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany, New Jersey, for a 
three-day “national” conference on curriculum transformation. The offi¬ 
cial program gives the overview: “A celebration of twenty years of curric¬ 
ulum transformation, this conference will bring together teachers, 
scholars, activists, and cultural leaders to share insights, knowledge, and 
strategies to assess our accomplishments and to imagine together a curric¬ 
ulum for the 21st century.” 

The conference was sponsored by a variety of state and federal agencies 
such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pennsylvania 
Humanities Council, and the New Jersey Committee for the Humanities. 
The keynoter, New Jersey chancellor of education Edward Goldberg, 
pointed out with great pride that New Jersey had invested “millions” in 
the curriculum transformation project. “The rest of America cannot be far 

Most of the eight hundred transformationists at the Parsippany Hilton 
had their expenses paid by their employers—mainly state governments, 
public schools, and public colleges and universities. Yet very few people 
know what transformationists do, why they do it, or why it might 

Ms. magazine used to run a feature called “The Click Experience,” in 
which a woman would write in to tell about the moment when a light 
went on in her head and she had her first blazing realization of how 
women had been cheated and silenced. The “click” is a quantum leap in 
feminist awareness—“the sudden coming to critical consciousness about 
one’s oppression.” Gender feminist academics have their own particular 
version of the click experience: it happens at the moment one “sees” that 
the entire college curriculum has, with very few exceptions, been wrought 
and written by meti, about men, and for men. History is “his story,” men 
telling about men. Social science research, usually conducted by men and 
about men, holds up men as the norm; women are the Other. The great 
thoughts we study, the great art we revere, the literature we learn to love 
are largely male achievements. Men wrote the books, and they concocted 
the theories: knowledge is a male creation. In a single “click,” a woman 
realizes that the culture and science men have created are not only wrong 
but self-serving and dangerous for women. The experience often has a 
depressing and alienating effect on a woman; the culture she had revered 
is suddenly not hers, and she may feel like a child of indifferent parents 
who discovers at a late age that she has been adopted. 

Sooner or later, most women, gender feminist or not, have something 

Transforming the Academy 


like a click experience. Men, except for the more myopic and hidebound 
among them, have it too. Just about everything bears the impress of 
patriarchy: high culture is largely a male achievement. As women have 
attained parity in economic status and access to higher learning and 
culture, the disparities, injustices, and exclusions of the past have been 
brought home to them as never before. 

The evidence that women have been excluded, and their abilities as 
thinkers and writers demeaned, is everywhere. But once a woman appre¬ 
ciates the extent to which culture and civilization have been male-domi¬ 
nated, two roads lie before her. She can learn what can be learned about 
women’s past achievements, and learn as well the reasons that their con¬ 
tributions to the larger enterprise were not greater; and she can then avail 
herself of the freedom she now has to accept the challenge to join with 
men on equal terms in the making of a new and richer culture. Or she 
can react to the cultural and scientific heritage as “androcentric” and move 
consciously to reconstruct the “knowledge base.” It is at this juncture that 
equity and gender feminist academics begin to go their separate ways. 
The former stay within the bounds of traditional scholarship and join in 
its enterprise. The latter seek to transform scholarship to make it “women - 

Geraldine Ruthchild, a professor of English at Albion College, typifies 
the gender feminist reaction to the keen awareness that so much of culture 
has been made by men. Her click sounded when she came across these 
remarks by Louise Bernikow: “Which writers have survived their time 
and which have not depends upon who noticed them and chose to record 
the notice. . . . Such power, in England and America, has always belonged 
to white men.” 10 Professor Ruthchild writes, “After reading Louise Berni¬ 
kow ... I was never again the same person, for her words abruptly crys¬ 
tallized random ideas I had had into a gem of revelation.” 11 

The historian Gerda Lemer’s revelation illuminates what for her is an 
ongoing atrocity. She asserts that men have been teaching women that 
sound thinking must exclude feeling. “Thus they [women] have learned 
to mistrust their own experience and devalue it. What wisdom can there 
be in menses? What source of knowledge in the milk-filled breast?” 12 The 
cognitive abuse of women fills Lerner with anger: “We have long known 
that rape has been a way of terrorizing us and keeping us in subjection. 
Now we also know that we have participated, although unwittingly, in 
the rape of our minds.” 13 

The gender feminist “re-vision” has been described in more sober terms 
in a brochure distributed by the prestigious American Association of 


Who Stole Feminism? 

In the last two decades, educators have begun to recognize that the 
experiences and perspectives of women are almost totally absent 
from the traditional curriculum. Surveys in the 1970s revealed, for 
example, that history textbooks devoted less than 1 percent of their 
coverage to women; that the most widely used textbook in art his¬ 
tory did not include a single woman artist; and that literature 
courses contained, on average, only 8 percent women authors. Such 
discoveries have led many people to question the validity of the 
version of human experience offered by the liberal arts. 14 

It is possible to come to such an awareness without deciding that the 
rational response is to overhaul the entire canon of Western experience. 
Many scholars have begun to take pains to give women the recognition 
that was often denied them in past accounts. Women scholars of anthro¬ 
pology, psychology, and sociology have discovered that much previous 
research, which tended to concentrate on men, generalized to conclusions 
that did not necessarily apply to women. For the past ten or fifteen years 
social scientists have been working to correct this neglect. Feminist liter¬ 
ary scholars have discovered and rescued many gifted women writers 
from undeserved oblivion. Textbook publishers now take pains to see 
that women are duly represented and that they are not demeaningly 
stereotyped. Such achievements stay well within the bounds of the kind 
of equitable adjustment that a mainstream feminism has rightly de¬ 
manded. But the gender feminists are not content with them. They want 
transformation; a mere correction of the record won’t do. 

There are, most people are aware, two meanings to the word history. 
On the one hand, history refers to a series of events that actually hap¬ 
pened. On the other hand, there is History, an account of what happened. 
The gender feminists claim that History (written by men and focusing 
almost exclusively on men) has systematically distorted history. 

It is undeniable that scholars often failed to recognize the role and 
importance of many gifted and historically important women. These ne¬ 
glected women deserve their place in History, and historians have a 
professional obligation to give it to them. Nevertheless, the paucity of 
women in History is, in the main, due not to the bias of male historians 
but rather to their concentration on politics, war, and conceptual change. 
Such History inevitably reflects the fact that women have not been al¬ 
lowed to make history in the way that men—and relatively few men at 
that—have been allowed to make it. It is a pervasive fact of history that 
men have rarely permitted women to participate in military and political 
affairs and that they have kept them away from learning and the high 

Transforming the Academy 


arts. Any History that is faithful to the facts must acknowledge that in the 
past women were simply not permitted the degree of freedom commen¬ 
surate with their talents. As Virginia Woolf pointed out, even the most 
gifted sister of Shakespeare would, tragically, never have been given the 
opportunities to make use of her genius. Lamentable as this may be, there 
is simply no honest way of writing women back into the historical narra¬ 
tive in a way that depicts them as movers and shakers of equal importance 
to men. 

To be sure, giving women only 1 percent of the narrative is too little, 
but 30 percent would be too much, and giving women half the space in 
a conventional History would blatantly falsify the narrative. Nor can his¬ 
torians do much about the “common people” whom God made so nu¬ 
merous. The vast majority of people, including most men and almost all 
women, have had a disproportionately small share in the history-making 
decisions about war, politics, and culture that historians count as momen¬ 
tous. But what is any historian of integrity supposed to do about that? 

It is a standard feminist objection to traditional History that it focuses 
too much on male-dominated activities such as politics, war, and, more 
recently, science. A more balanced History would focus on areas of life 
that would give women greater visibility and importance. In effect, the 
complaint is that women figure importantly in social history but that 
political history has been given pride of place. This was a reasonable 
grievance twenty years ago, and the trend in high school and college 
history books since then has been toward social history. Even a strongly 
feminist report on the curriculum by the Wellesley College Center for 
Research on Women points this out: “An informal survey of twenty U.S. 
history textbooks compiled each year from 1984 to 1989 found a gradual 
but steady shift away from an overwhelming emphasis on law, wars, and 
control over territory and public policy, toward an emphasis on people’s 
daily lives in many kinds of circumstances.” 15 

In fact, both political and social history are important. By itself, social 
history, too, is insufficient. Even an exhaustive survey of daily life cannot 
substitute for the traditional kind of political history. Students need a 
reliable account of the events, philosophies, and cultural developments 
that have made a difference in the fates of nations and peoples, rendering 
some more successful and prosperous than others. Sooner or later the 
responsible teacher of history must get down to the history of politics, 
war, and social change. 

But the gender feminists have far more ambitious goals than the re¬ 
dressing of historical neglect and bias. If history cannot be changed, 
History can be. Better yet, why not insist that all we ever have of history 


Who Stole Feminism? 

is the History we write, and that depends on who writes it? Heretofore, 
men have written History, giving us a masculinist account of the past; 
now women are free to change that version of History to make it more 

It is now common practice in high school textbooks to revise History 
in ways that attribute to women a political and cultural importance they 
simply did not have. Overt revisionism is rare. More often, history is 
distorted and the importance of women is falsely inflated without directly 
tampering with the facts. High school history texts now lavish attention 
on minor female figures. Sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington, who alerted 
colonial soldiers in a failed attempt to cut off the escape of a British 
raiding party, gets more space in America: Its People and Its Values than 
Paul Revere. In the same textbook, Maria Mitchell, a nineteenth-century 
astronomer who discovered a comet, gets far more attention than Albert 
Einstein. In another popular high school text, there are three pictures of 
Civil War nurses but none of General Sherman or General Grant. 16 

One of the ways human agents transform the course of history is by 
making war. The preeminence of men in war seems inescapable. But the 
feminist philosopher and transformationist Elizabeth Minnich maintains 
that women have played important roles in decisions about war and in 
war itself. 

Women have been part of and actively opposed to war throughout 
the ages and across cultures. Women have fought; women have tried 
to stop the fighting; women have been on the front lines as sup¬ 
pliers, as nurses, as spies; and have worked behind the lines as 
cooks, secretaries, seamstresses, drivers, experts in language; to keep 
the country going. . . . Without women ... no war could ever have 
been fought. 17 

Minnich does not give examples, but where historians have overlooked 
or airbrushed women out of significant roles they played in war, she is 
right to demand a truer and more complete picture. However, she also 
implies that a fuller picture would reveal that women’s role in warfare has 
been pivotal. In fact it would not; no amount of supplementation can 
change the fact that women’s roles in war have been relatively minor and 
their occasional protests against war have generally been unavailing. Nor 
would it be right to deprecate the importance of war as a factor in histor¬ 
ical change; it remains true that war—conducted almost exclusively by 

Transforming the Academy 


men—has been the agent of cataclysmic historical upheavals, and any 
adequate History must reflect that fact, even if it means “leaving women 

The idea that men have awarded themselves a dominance in history 
that they did not actually possess is becoming increasingly popular. I 
recently gave a public lecture on feminism and education before an au¬ 
dience that included several transformationists. In the lecture I defended 
traditional ideals of striving for objectivity and historical veracity. An 
annoyed man in the audience asked, “But how do we know that Mrs. 
Washington did not give her husband all his ideas?” I replied that we had 
no evidence for that. “Yes,” said my interlocutor, now very excited, “that 
is just the point. There is no evidence! There cannot be evidence. Because 
those writing history would have suppressed it: the fact that there is no 
history proves nothing. It’s lost to us forever.” 

I answered that we have got to rely on the evidence we have until we 
have good reason to change our minds. I pointed out that it is most 
implausible that Martha Washington knew much about military cam¬ 
paigns or statecraft. It’s also possible (and just as unlikely) that one of 
Washington’s great-aunts was the brains behind his military prowess. We 
just can’t do history that way. 

I could see that some members of the audience were altogether unim¬ 
pressed with my rejoinder and my “obtuse” insistence on a conventional 
historical reasonableness, and I knew why: transformationists want “Her- 
story.” They are impatient with an approach to History that impedes the 
kind of revisionism so many gender feminists are demanding as part of a 
“transformed knowledge base.” 

The gender feminist “reconceptualization” of History is moving right 
along at the university level. But the curricular changes are even more 
dramatic in the secondary and elementary schools. Because local and state 
governments are closely involved in public school curricula, and because 
they are very sensitive and responsive to gender feminist pressures, these 
changes are being imposed by fiat on thousands of public schools. 

Writers of contemporary history and social science texts, especially for 
the primary and secondary grades, make special efforts to provide “role 
models” for girls. Precollege texts usually have an abundance of pictures; 
these now typically show women working in factories or looking through 
microscopes. A “stereotypical” picture of a woman with a baby is a 
frowned-upon rarity. Instead, a kind of reverse stereotyping has become 
an informal requisite. Once Charles Lindbergh was a great role model for 
American boys; today, a textbook will make a point of informing students 
about Lindberg’s World War II isolationism. In the same text, Anne 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Morrow Lindbergh’s very considerable achievements will be praised, but 
there will be no mention of her dalliance with fascism. 18 

The misplaced efforts to avoid slighting women lead quickly to exten¬ 
sive “re-visionings” of history, art, and the sciences. The Center for the 
Study of Social and Political Change at Smith College did a critical study 
of three of the most widely used new high school American history 
textbooks. Because of state mandates for gender equality, the authors of 
the new textbooks had to go out of their way to give women prominence. 
The Smith researchers were not happy with the results: 

There is one major problem ... in writing nonsexist history text¬ 
books. Most of America’s history is male-dominated, in part because 
in most states women were not allowed to vote in federal elections 
or hold office until the twentieth century. This may be regrettable, 
but it is still a fact. What, then, is a nonsexist writer of the American 
history textbook to do? The answer is filler feminism. 19 

Filler feminism pads history with its own “facts” designed to drive 
home the lessons feminists wish to impart. The following passage from 
one of the most widely used high school American history texts, American 
Voices, is a good example of the sort of “feel good” feminist spin that has 
become the norm in our nation’s textbooks. 

A typical [Indian] family thus consisted of an old woman, her 
daughters with their husbands and children, and her unmarried 
granddaughters and grandsons. . . . Politically, women’s roles and 
status varied from culture to culture. Women were more likely to 
assume leadership roles among the agricultural peoples than among 
nomadic hunters. In addition, in many cases in which women did 
not become village chiefs, they still exercised substantial political 
power. For example, in Iroquois villages, when selected men sat in 
a circle to discuss and make decisions, the senior women of the 
village stood behind them, lobbying and instructing the men. In 
addition, the elder women named the male village chiefs to their 
positions. 20 

Though some of the information about the Iroquois is vaguely correct, 
the paragraph is blatantly designed to give high school students the 
impression that most Native American societies tended to be politically 
matriarchal. Since that is not true, the textbook “covers” itself by the 

Transforming the Academy 


formal disclaimer that “in many cases ... the women did not become 
village chiefs.” (In how many cases? A small minority? A large majority?) 
This is patronizing to both Indians and women, and there is no basis for 
it. There are more than 350 recognized Indian tribes—one can no more 
generalize about them than one can about “humanity.” Here is what 
Gilbert Sewall of the American Textbook Council says about this passage: 
“Female-headed households? Bad old history may cede to bad new his¬ 
tory. The presentist spin on Indian society found in the American Voices 
passage is less versed in evidence than aligned to contemporary feminist 
politics and perspectives.” 21 

Social studies texts are full of such “filler feminism”; indeed, in some 
cases, feminist pressures determine what is excluded even more than they 
determine what is to be included. In an extensive survey of the new 
textbooks written under feminist guidelines, New York University psy¬ 
chologist Paul Vitz could find no positive portrayal of romance, marriage, 
or motherhood. 22 

By far the most noticeable ideological position in the readers is a 
feminist one. ... To begin with, certain themes just do not occur in 
these stories and articles. Hardly a story celebrates motherhood or 
marriage as a positive goal or as a rich and meaningful way of living. 

. . . Though great literature, from Tristan and Isolde to Shakespeare 
to Jane Austen to Louisa May Alcott, is filled with romance and the 
desire to marry, one finds very little of that in these texts. 23 

That American students are short on cultural literacy is well known. 
What is not known is that the transformationists are exacerbating the 
situation. A 1989 study entitled “What Do Our 17 Year Olds Know?” by 
Diane Ravitch and Chester Finn determined that more high school stu¬ 
dents recognized the name of Harriet Tubman (83 percent) than Winston 
Churchill (78 percent) or Joseph Stalin (53 percent); in fact, more knew 
about Ms. Tubman than knew that Abraham Lincoln issued the Emanci¬ 
pation Proclamation (68 percent) or that the Constitution divides powers 
between the states and the federal government (43 percent). Seventy- 
seven percent recognized that women worked in factories during World 
War II, but fewer could identify the Great Depression (75 percent) or find 
France on a map (65 percent) or knew that the Renaissance was charac¬ 
terized by cultural and technological advances (39 percent). 24 In the fall 
of 1992, Dr. Frank Lutz, a fellow at the Harvard University Institute of 
Politics, surveyed Ivy League students to find out how much history and 
civics they knew. 25 His survey of 3,119 of our nation’s brightest and best- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

educated students revealed that three out of four did not know that 
Thomas Jefferson had authored the opening words of the Declaration of 
Independence. Most (three out of four) were unable to name four Su¬ 
preme Court justices, nor could they name the U.S. senators from their 
home states. More than a third could not name the prime minister of 
Great Britain. Such consequences are typical and predictable when teach¬ 
ers are distracted from the material they should be teaching by the effort 
to be ideologically correct. 

The problem of “filler feminism” will get worse. Transformationists are 
well organized, and their influence is growing apace. Because of transfor¬ 
mationist pressures, the law in some states now actually mandates “gen¬ 
der-fair” history. The California State Department of Education has issued 
guidelines called “Standards for Evaluation of Instructional Materials with 
Respect to Social Content.” According to Education Code section 
60040(a) and 60044(a), “Whenever an instructional material presents 
developments in history or current events, or achievements in art, science, 
or any other field, the contributions of women and men should be rep¬ 
resented in approximately equal number.” 26 In effect, this law demands 
that the historian be more attentive to the demands of “equal representa¬ 
tion” than to the historical facts. Needless to say, histories and social 
studies presented in this “fair” but factually skewed manner constitute an 
unworthy and dishonest approach to learning. 

In the history of the high arts the absence of women is deplorable but 
largely irreparable. Few women in the past were allowed to train and 
work in the major arts. Because of this, men have wrought most of the 
works that are commonly recognized as masterpieces. But here, espe¬ 
cially, the temptation to redress past wrongs through “reconceptualiza¬ 
tion” has proved irresistible. 

The transformationists claim that works of art made by women have 
been passed over because the standards have always been tilted to favor 
men. Peggy McIntosh, a director at the Wellesley College Center for 
Research on Women and a leader in the movement to transform the 
curriculum, calls for measures to redress the historical wrong that wom¬ 
en’s art has suffered at the hands of male critics: 

The study of music, art and architecture is transformed if one goes 
beyond those works that were made for public use, display, or 
performance and were supported by the aristocratic or institutional 
patrons. One begins to study quilts, breadloaf shapes, clothing, pots, 
or songs and dances that people who had no musical literacy or 
training took for granted. 27 

Transforming the Academy 


Janis Bell, an art historian at Kenyon College, asks the question repeated 
in thousands of women’s studies courses: “But is the traditional rectangle 
of a canvas any less limiting to the design than the rectangle of the 
quilt?” 28 Professor Bell calls for reconceptualizing “our courses to create a 
place for women that is no longer peripheral—but rather the center of 
our inquiry into the history of the visual arts.” 29 

Professor Bell and Dr. McIntosh ask us to “go beyond” the great public 
works of art, such as cathedrals, to look at what women have done. And 
a quilt can have great aesthetic value. But the loveliest quilt is plainly 
inferior to the canvases of Titian and Rembrandt in subtlety, complexity, 
and power, and we should be able to acknowledge the neglect of women’s 
art without claiming otherwise. It is in fact true that the study of women’s 
contributions to art has been neglected and that this neglect must be— 
and is being—addressed and repaired. On the other hand, revisionist 
proposals to rewrite the historical record or to change the standards of 
artistic excellence to put women’s art on a par with the highest classic 
achievements must be rejected as unworthy of a feminism that reveres 
great art and respects truth. 

Feminists who resent the “male culture” tend to load their courses with 
remedial materials emphasizing women. There is, to be sure, much inter¬ 
esting new scholarship on women, and it may be tempting for feminists 
to devote a disproportionate amount of class time to it. But teachers have 
an obligation to ensure that their students acquire some basic “cultural 
literacy.” Those who deploy the new scholarship in an attempt to make 
up for the shortcomings of the “male-centered curriculum” almost inevi¬ 
tably shortchange their students. 

In the summer of 1992, I attended a workshop given by Elizabeth 
Minnich when she and I were both speakers at the annual meetings of 
the Phi Kappa Phi Society in Charlotte, North Carolina. She outlined 
most of the arguments above—including the critiques of the notion of 
masterpiece in art and the “hegemony” of Greco-Euro-American stan¬ 
dards. During the discussion I asked Dr. Minnich if she really believed 
there were quilts that rivaled or surpassed the ceiling of the Sistine 
Chapel. She admitted that such a judgment did indeed shock our sensi¬ 
bilities but pointedly asked me in turn, “Isn’t that what the history of art 
is all about—shocked sensibilities?” Standards and tastes are always in 
flux, she said. What one society or group judges to be great another finds 
banal or offensive. 

The audience appeared startled by my open disagreement with Dr. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Minnich. Their reaction, I am ashamed to say, made me restrain myself 
from asking her the questions I badly wanted to ask: Why should we 
women be playing an undignified game of one-upmanship that we are 
bound to lose? What motivates the revisionist efforts to rewrite History 
or to revise the standards of “greatness” in a manner calculated to give to 
women victories and triumphs they never had the opportunities to win? 
We now have those opportunities. Why can’t we move on to the future 
and stop wasting energy on resenting (and “rewriting”) the past? 

Many of us who call ourselves feminists are very much aware of the 
past indignities and deprivations that have limited women in the arts. 
Although we deplore the past, we appreciate that the situation has 
changed: today, artistically gifted women do have their level playing field. 
So we reject the call to change the standards of greatness, and we are 
exploring the more constructive alternatives now open to us, where we 
judge our best prospects to lie. 

Unfortunately, no one is consulting mainstream feminists about the 
value or wisdom of proposals to change standards in order to “valorize” 
women in the History of art or any other branch of History. If the trans¬ 
formationists continue to have their unchecked way in the academy, large 
numbers of American students will learn to view the great masterpieces in 
a doctrinally correct way—to their profound loss. Moreover, the women’s 
movement loses by being associated with the partisan and resentful anti- 
intellectualism that is inspiring a gynocentric revisionism in art criticism. 

In literature, as in the arts, gender feminists have made a sweeping 
attack on allegedly male conceptions of excellence. As Elaine Marks of 
the University of Wisconsin French department puts it, “We are contest¬ 
ing the canon and the very concept of canons and masterpieces.” 30 Pro¬ 
fessor Marks reminds us once again that many gifted women in the past 
have not received due recognition. Good feminist scholarship addresses 
this problem and in many cases resurrects reputations that would other¬ 
wise remain overlooked. But gender feminists are not content to stop 
there. As transformationist activist Charlotte Bunch declares, “You can’t 
just add women and stir.” 31 According to Bunch, we must attack the 
problem at the roots “by transforming a male culture” and by “recon¬ 
structing the world from the standpoint of women.” We must, in other 
words, reject the masculinist standards that have placed European males 
like Michelangelo and Shakespeare in the highest ranks and relegated 
their sisters to oblivion. 

The gender feminists challenge the very idea of “great art,” “great 
literature,” and (as we shall presently see) “great science.” Talk of “great¬ 
ness” and “masterpieces” implies a ranking of artists and works, a “hier- 

Transforming the Academy 


archial” approach considered to be unacceptable because it implicitly 
denigrates those who are given lesser status. The very idea of “genius” is 
regarded with suspicion as elitist and “masculinist.” Peggy McIntosh is 
among the proponents of this belief: “The study of literature usually 
involves a very few geniuses. ... To be ordinary is a sin, in the world of 
most literature teachers. . . . Only those works which distance themselves 
from an audience, by setting themselves up in a genre separate from the 
reader and requiring no answer from the reader, are considered to be 
‘literary.’ ” 32 McIntosh does not explain why a work by a genius like Leo 
Tolstoy should be more “distancing” than a work by a twentieth-century 
feminist novelist like Margaret Atwood or Alice Walker. 

The transformationist project has already strongly influenced American 
universities, and the scornful attitude it fosters toward traditional literary 
classics is becoming increasingly fashionable. The organizers of a literary 
conference on diversity and multiculturalism in Boston in June 1991 
asked the two hundred-plus participating professors to list the five Amer¬ 
ican authors they believed most necessary to a quality education. Mark 
Twain got thirty-six votes; Toni Morrison, thirty-four; Maya Angelou, 
twenty-six; Alice Walker, twenty-four; John Steinbeck, twenty-one; Mal¬ 
colm X, eighteen; Richard Wright, thirteen; James Baldwin, thirteen; 
Langston Hughes, thirteen; William Faulkner, eleven; Nathaniel Haw¬ 
thorne, ten; Ernest Hemingway, ten; Henry David Thoreau, nine; Willa 
Cather, eight; F. Scott Fitzgerald, seven; Dee Brown, seven; W.E.B. Du- 
Bois, seven; Emily Dickinson, six; Amy Tan, six; Harper Lee, five; and 
Walt Whitman, five. 33 Thomas Palmer, the Boston Globe reporter who 
covered the conference, stopped counting after Whitman. In any case, 
Herman Melville, whom most literary critics used to regard as the greatest 
American writer, did not make the list. Nor did Henry James. The confer¬ 
ees cheered the results of the poll. “This list makes me feel so much more 
connected,” one participant told the Globe. I, on the other hand, was 
depressed by the results. 

In their critique of the imperial male culture, the transformationist 
feminists do not confine themselves to impugning the history, art, and 
literature of the past. They also regard logic and rationality as “phallocen- 
tric.” Elizabeth Minnich traces the cultural tradition to a “few privileged 
males . . . who are usually called ‘The Greeks.’ ” 34 In common with many 
other transformationists, Minnich believes that the conceptions of ratio¬ 
nality and intelligence are white, male creations: “At present. . . not only 
are students taught ‘phallocentric’ and ‘colonial’ notions of reason as the 
forms of rational expression, but the full possible range of expression of 
human intelligence also tends to be forced into a severely shrunken no- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

tion of intelligence.” 35 Note the reference to a “colonial” rationality with 
its implication of deliberate subjugation. It is now common practice to 
use scare quotes to indicate the feminist suspicion of a “reality” peculiar 
to male ways of knowing. For example, the feminist philosopher Joyce 
Trebilcot speaks of “the apparatuses of ‘truth,’ ‘knowledge,’ ‘science,’ ” 
that men use to “project their personalities as reality.” 36 

The attack on traditional culture has thus escalated to an attack on the 
rational standards and methods that have been the hallmark of scientific 
progress. The New Jersey Project for reforming the public schools circu¬ 
lates a document entitled “Feminist Scholarship Guidelines.” The first 
guideline is unexceptionable: “Feminist scholars seek to recover the lost 
work and thought of women in all areas of human endeavor.” 37 But after 
that, the guidelines unravel: “Feminist scholarship begins with an aware¬ 
ness that much previous scholarship has offered a white, male, Eurocen¬ 
tric, heterosexist, and elite view of‘reality.’ ” 

The guidelines elaborate on the attitude toward masculinist scholarship 
and methods by quoting the feminist theorist Elizabeth Fee: “Knowledge 
was created as an act of aggression—a passive nature had to be interro¬ 
gated, unclothed, penetrated, and compelled by man to reveal her se¬ 
crets.” Fee’s resentment and suspicion of male “ways of knowing” follows 
a path well trodden by such feminist thinkers as Mary Ellman, Catharine 
MacKinnon, and Sandra Harding, whose views of patriarchal knowledge 
and science have quickly become central gender feminist doctrine. Play¬ 
ing on the biblical double meaning of knowing to refer both to intercourse 
and to cognition, Ellman and MacKinnon claim that men approach nature 
as rapists approach a woman, taking joy in violating “her,” in “penetrat¬ 
ing” her secrets. Feminists, says MacKinnon, have finally realized that for 
men, “to know has meant to fuck.” 38 In a similar mood, Sandra Harding 
suggests that Newton’s Principles of Mechanics could just as aptly be 
called “Newton’s Rape Manual.” 39 

The New Jersey Project is inspired by such insights. As a teacher of 
philosophy, I suppose I should be happy to see profound issues in meta¬ 
physics and the theory of knowledge being discussed in government 
pamphlets on educational reform. But it is quite clear that this discussion 
is more political than philosophical. New Jersey gets its theory of knowl¬ 
edge from feminist activists like Paula Rothenberg and Catharine Stimp- 
son. That the state should underwrite a condemnation of “phallocentric” 
conceptions of reality and scientific knowledge is far more a tribute to the 
energy and political influence of the feminist transformationists than to 
New Jersey’s profound appreciation of contemporary epistemology. 

Transforming the Academy 


Male scholars specializing in their masculinist academic disciplines 
(from chemistry to philosophy) are known to transformationists as “sep¬ 
arate knowers.” The authors of Womens Ways of Knowing , a text much 
cited by transformationists, define “separate knowing” as “the game of 
impersonal reason,” a game that has “belonged traditionally to boys.” 40 
“Separate knowers are tough-minded. They are like doormen at exclusive 
clubs. They do not want to let anything in unless they are pretty sure it is 
good. . . . Presented with a proposition, separate knowers immediately 
look for something wrong—a loophole, a factual error, a logical contra¬ 
diction, the omission of contrary evidence.” 41 

Separate knowers—mainly men—play the “doubting game.” The au¬ 
thors of Women’s Ways of Knowing contrast separate knowing with a 
higher state of “connected knowing” that they view as the more feminine. 
In place of the “doubting game,” connected knowers play the “believing 
game.” This is more congenial for women because “many women find it 
easier to believe than to doubt.” 42 

Peggy McIntosh has developed her own special variant of the 
connected-knower/separate-knower distinction. Why, she asks, should 
schools focus so much on the people at the top—on the “mountain 
strongholds of white men”—when what we need to study are the “valley 
values” of women and minorities? 43 McIntosh shifts between the moun¬ 
tain-valley metaphor and a distinction that sounds more technical 
(though it is in fact equally metaphorical) between the two ways of know¬ 
ing: a narrow, patriarchal, male, “vertical” way and a richer, female, 
“lateral” way. 

The male dominant elite—the “vertical thinkers,” as Dr. McIntosh calls 
them—aim at “exact thinking, or decisiveness or mastery of something, 
or being able to make an argument and take on all comers, or turning in 
the perfect paper.” 44 Vertical thinking is “triggered by words like excel¬ 
lence, accomplishment, success, and achievement.” Lateral thinking is 
more spiritual, “relational, inclusive.” Women and people of color tend 
to be lateral thinkers. For “laterals,” the “aim is not to win, but to be in a 
decent relationship with the invisible elements of the universe.” 

McIntosh elaborates the vertical-lateral metaphor in proposing five 
stages in the development of an acceptable curriculum. Her “phase the¬ 
ory” is one of several popular typologies influencing the gender feminist 
mission to transform American schools. Stage theories lend themselves 
well to the workshop mode and provide administrators a useful means 


Who Stole Feminism? 

for evaluating faculty. McIntosh grades instructors by the level of the 
phases their courses exemplify. 

In phase one, the instructor focuses on the mountain people, or “pin¬ 
nacle people.” A phase one history course “tends to emphasize laws, wars 
. . . and to tell the stories of winners, at the tops of the ladders of so- 
called success, accomplishment, achievement, and excellence.” 45 Phase 
one thinkers take for granted such dogmas as “the quest for knowledge is 
a universal human undertaking.” 46 Dr. McIntosh speaks of the “hidden 
ethos” hanging over the “phase one” curriculum, with its logic of “either 
or, right or wrong. . . . You win lest you lose: kill or be killed.” At a 1990 
workshop for public school teachers and staff in Brookline, Massachu¬ 
setts, she reminded the audience of all the “young white males dangerous 
to themselves and the rest of us, especially in a nuclear age.” 47 Their 
orientation toward logic and achievement is what makes them so threat¬ 

By phase two, instructors have noticed the absence of women and 
minorities, so they find a few exceptional cases to include. McIntosh calls 
this the “exceptional minority” phase. 48 She considers this “worse” than 
phase one in that “it pretends to show us ‘women,’ but really shows us 
only a famous few.” 49 

In phase three, the instructor begins to get interested in the valley 
people and why so few have made it up the mountain. “Phase three 
curriculum work involves getting angry.” 50 The emphasis now is on 
women as a victimized group. “Most teachers in the United States . . . 
were taught that the individual is the main unit of society and that the 
U.S. system is a meritocracy.” 51 But at phase three, these naive beliefs get 
dropped. Phase three instructors become radical critics of the United 
States: they begin to see “how patterns of colonialism, imperialism and 
genocide outside the U.S. match patterns of domination, militarism and 
genocide at home.” 52 

Phase four takes us beyond winning and losing. “It produces courses 
in which we are all seen to be in it together, all having ethnic and racial 
identity, all having culture ... all with some power to say no, and yes, 
and This I create.’. . . Phase four classes can be wondrous in their healing 
power.” 53 

McIntosh’s description of phase four is allusive and poetic, but to 
hidebound “vertical” thinkers not very illuminating. She says even less 
about the fifth and highest phase in her ideal of knowledge. She admits 
that it is “as yet unthinkable” and writes of it in sentences with an abun¬ 
dance of capital letters that signify its apocalyptic character: “Phase five 
will give us Reconstructed Global and Biological History to Survive By.” 54 

Transforming the Academy 


Discussing the fifth phase reminds McIntosh of a remark made by the 
feminist historian Gerda Lemer: “Don’t worry... we were 6000 years 
carefully building a patriarchal structure of knowledge, and we’ve had 
only 12 years to try to correct it, and 12 years is nothing.” 55 

Marilyn R. Schuster and Susan R. Van Dyne of Smith College “consult 
nationally” on feminist curriculum transformation. They have developed 
a six-stage theory of pedagogical levels that looks very much like Mc¬ 
Intosh’s five-phase theory. Theirs describes a feminist alternative to the 
masculinist curriculum that is to be pluralistic instead of hierarchical, 
attentive to difference rather than elitist, concrete rather than abstract. 
But they, too, are not keen to tell us where the transformations will lead: 

What would a curriculum that offers an inclusive vision of human 
experience and that attends as carefully to difference and genuine 
pluralism as to sameness and generalization actually look like? Al¬ 
though we possess the tools of analysis that allow us to conceive of 
such an education, we can’t, as yet, point to any institution that has 
entered the millennium and adopted such a curriculum. 56 

But the problem is not that the “millennium” of a transformed academy 
has not yet arrived. Schuster and Van Dyne do not realize that they have 
no idea of the curriculum that is to replace the “androcentric” one now 
in place. Instead of submitting a comprehensive feminist curriculum for 
serious consideration and scrutiny, we are given a lot of loose and meta¬ 
phorical talk about female epistemologies characterizing how women 
view the world from a female perspective. 

Catharine Stimpson, one of the matron saints of transformationism, is 
a former president of the Modem Language Association and, until re¬ 
cently, was dean of the Graduate School and vice-provost at Rutgers 
University. We do get a fairly detailed description from her of a late-stage 
curriculum that she outlined in Change magazine in 1988. 57 Stimpson 
begins in conventional transformationist fashion by denouncing the tra¬ 
ditional phase one curriculum for teaching students to recognize big 
(male) names from “Abraham and Isaac to Zola” as little more than a 
game that, “at its most innocent,” appeals only to crossword puzzle or 
“Jeopardy” fans. Dean Stimpson has a more “coherent curriculum” in 
mind, and because she has been unusually specific, I shall quote her at 
some length: 

What might a coherent curriculum be like? Let me pass out some 
whiffs of a syllabus, which focuses on the humanities. . . . “My syl- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

labus” desires to show . . . culture, not as a static and immobile 
structure, but as a kinetic series of processes, in which various forces 
often compete and clash. However, a student must have a certain 
security in order to appreciate diversity. ... To help create that 
sense of stability and security for U.S. students . . . my . . . college 
curriculum starts with a linear narrative about America’s own weird, 
complex history. . . . For example, when the narrative shuttles to¬ 
wards the seventeenth century, it could stop at four texts: Native 
American myths, legends and rituals; the 1637-38 trials of Anne 
Hutchinson; the poems of Anne Bradstreet. . . and finally, the nar¬ 
rative of Mary Rowlandson, issued in 1682, about her capture by 
Native Americans during the liberation struggle of 1676. 58 

Stimpson gives us an idea of how one could correct the standard 
masculinist narratives with their endless discussion of “explorers,” 
“founding fathers,” and the Constitution—none of which figure in Stimp¬ 
son’s version of American studies. 

Among my novels would be Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand. 

. . . Like many contemporary speculative fictions, Stars in My Pocket 
finds conventional heterosexuality absurd. The central figures are 
two men, Rat Korga and Marq Dyeth, who have a complex, but 
ecstatic, affair. Marq is also the proud product of a rich “nurture 
stream.” His ancestry includes both humans and aliens. His genetic 
heritage blends differences. In a sweet scene, he sees three of his 

Stimpson knows her curriculum will be criticized. But she is light- 
heartedly defiant: “If my curriculum seems to yowl like a beast of relativ¬ 
ism, I find this cause for cheer. . . . My reconstructive project affirms that 
relativism is no beast but a goon that will nurture a more democratic, a 
more culturally literate, and yes, a brainier university.” 

We can let Stimpson’s talk of a “coherent curriculum” and “brainier 
university” fall of its own weight. Other transformationists have not been 
so forthcoming about where they are taking the academy—and we can 
see why. As it happens, I have met Ms. Stimpson at several recent confer¬ 
ences and found her to be more moderate and sensible than she appears 
to have been in 1988. Nevertheless, her views of the eighties cast light on 
the predicament of universities in the nineties. Many courses of the kind 
Stimpson dreamed of are now in place, and the campaign against “patriar¬ 
chal” culture and scholarship is unabated. 

Transforming the Academy 


It is understandable that the transformationists are more lyrical than 
informative about what the transformed academy will actually look like 
and what its curriculum will be. There is no lack of programmatic discus¬ 
sion about “subjectivity,” “lateral thinking,” “concreteness,” “inclusive¬ 
ness,” “relatedness,” and the importance of interdisciplinary studies as 
features of a feminist reconceptualization of higher learning. There is also 
lots of metaphorical talk about windows and mirrors and voices. But the 
description of the new curriculum is silent on crucial matters. What, for 
example, is supposed to be the fate of such suspect “first phase, vertical, 
male” subjects as math, logic, or analytical philosophy? 

Linda Gardiner, editor of the Women’s Review of Books, which is housed 
in the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, wonders 
whether Western philosophy speaks for women at all. “We might begin 
to question the import of Descartes’ stress on logic and mathematics as 
the ideal types of rationality, in a society in which only a tiny percentage 
of people could realistically spend time developing skills in those fields,” 
she writes. 59 Noting that the philosophical elite is biased in favor of the 
abstract, methodical, and universal, Gardiner suggests that a feminist 
philosophy would be more concrete and more suspicious of logic and 
method. “What would a female logic be like?” she asks, and answers that 
this would be like asking what female astronomy or particle physics 
would be like. “We cannot imagine what it would mean to have a ‘female 
version’ of them.” 60 For that, says Ms. Gardiner, we should first need to 
develop different epistemologies. Reading Gardiner’s spirited arguments 
for the thesis that classical philosophy is essentially and inveterately male 
biased, one cannot avoid the impression that the feminist critic is more 
ingenious at finding male bias in a field than in proposing an intelligible 
alternative way to deal with its subject matter. 

The gender feminist “critique” of the physical sciences, one of the 
busiest areas of feminist transformationist theory, is also rich in metaphor 
and poor in literal content. To be sure, science does present some genuine 
issues of concern to any feminist. Laboratories can be as unwelcoming to 
women as male locker rooms; a lot still needs to be done to make the life 
of science more hospitable to women. But equity feminists part company 
with those who hold that science itself—its methodology, its rules of 
evidence, its concern for empirical grounding, its ideal of objectivity—is 
an expression of a “masculinist” approach to knowledge. Indeed, the 
gender feminist doctrines are a distinct embarrassment and a threat to 
any woman with aspirations to do real science. 

Inevitably, gender feminist philosophers seek to find their ideas con¬ 
firmed by eminent women scientists. Evelyn Fox Keller argues that Nobel 


Who Stole Feminism? 

laureate Barbara McClintock’s achievements in cell biology were made 
possible because of her outsider status, which gave scope to her uniquely 
feminine approach. As a woman of integrity, says Fox Keller, McClintock 
could not accept the “image of the scientist modeled on the patriarchal 
husband.” 61 This, according to Fox Keller, led McClintock to creative and 
radical redefinitions: “Nature must be renamed as not female, or, at least, 
as not an alienated object. By the same token, the mind, if the female 
scientist is to have one, must be renamed as not necessarily male, and 
accordingly recast with a more inclusive subjectivity.” 62 But Professor 
McClintock herself does not accept Fox Keller’s interpretation of her 
work. As Fox Keller candidly acknowledges, “She [McClintock] would 
disclaim any analysis of her work as a woman’s work, as well as any 
suggestion that her views represent a woman’s perspective. To her, sci¬ 
ence is not a matter of gender, either male or female; it is, on the contrary, 
a place where (ideally at least) ‘the matter of gender drops away.’ ” 63 

Feminist critics have looked at the metaphors of “male science” and 
found them sexist. I recently heard a feminist astronomer interviewed on 
CNN say in all seriousness that sexist terminology like “the Big Bang 
Theory” is “off-putting to young women” who might otherwise be inter¬ 
ested in pursuing careers in her field. 64 It is hard to believe that anyone 
with an intelligent interest in astronomy would be put off by a graphic 
description of a cosmic event. Other critiques of science as masculinist 
are equally fatuous and scientifically fruitless. After asserting that “the 
warlike terminology of immunology which focuses on ‘competition,’ ‘in¬ 
hibition,’ and ‘invasion’ as major theories of how cells interact reflects a 
militaristic view of the world,” Sue Rosser, who offers workshops on how 
to transform the biology curriculum, concedes that “a feminist critique 
has not yet produced theoretical changes in the area of cell biology.” 65 
She does not tell us how the “feminist critique” could lead to advances in 
biology, but she considers it obvious that it must: “It becomes evident 
that the inclusion of a feminist perspective leads to changes in models, 
experimental subjects, and interpretations of the data. These changes 
entail more inclusive, enriched theories compared to the traditional, re¬ 
strictive, unicausal theories.” 66 

To some, just the promise of a female perspective in the sciences seems 
enough. To demand more seems churlish to them. Sandra Flarding has 
made feminist philosophy of science her specialty. Harding makes it 
sound as if merely articulating a feminist critique of male science is 
equivalent to having broken through to a feminist alternative: “When we 
began theorizing our experiences ... we knew our task would be a diffi¬ 
cult though exciting one. But I doubt that in our wildest dreams we ever 

Transforming the Academy 


imagined we would have to reinvent both science and theorizing itself in 
order to make sense of women’s social experience.” 67 Unfortunately, we 
are not given even a vague idea of how her alleged breakthrough must 
now affect the study of the natural sciences; in particular, we remain in 
the dark on the question of what a feminist scientific curriculum would 
look like and how it would lead to “reinventing science.” As philosopher 
of mathematics Margarita Levin dryly remarks, “One still wants to know 
whether feminists’ airplanes would stay airborne for feminist engineers.” 68 

Chapter 4 

New Epistemologies 

2 + 

Some gender feminists claim that because women have been op¬ 
pressed they are better “knowers.” Feeling more deeply, they see more 
clearly and understand reality better. They have an “epistemic” advantage 
over men . 1 Does being oppressed really make one more knowledgeable 
or perceptive? The idea that adversity confers special insight is familiar 
enough. Literary critics often ascribe creativity to suffering, including 
suffering of racial discrimination or homophobia. But feminist philoso¬ 
phers have carried this idea much further. They claim that oppressed 
groups enjoy privileged “epistemologies” or “different ways of knowing” 
that better enable them to understand the world, not only socially but 

According to “standpoint theory,” as the theory of epistemic advantage 
is called, the oppressed may make better biologists, physicists, and phi¬ 
losophers than their oppressors. Thus we find the feminist theorist Hilary 
Rose saying that male scientists have been handicapped by being men. A 
better science would be based on women’s domestic experience and prac- 

New Epistemologies 


tice. 2 Professor Virginia Held offers hope that “a feminist standpoint 
would give us a quite different understanding of even physical reality.” 3 
Conversely, those who are most socially favored, the proverbial white, 
middle-class males, are in the worst epistemic position. 

What do mainstream philosophers make of the idea of “standpoint 
theories”? Professor Susan Haack of the University of Miami is one of the 
most respected epistemologists in the country. She is also an equity fem¬ 
inist. In December 1992 she participated in a symposium on feminist 
philosophy at meetings of the American Philosophical Association. It was 
a unique event. For once, someone outside the insular little world of 
gender feminism was asked to comment on gender feminist theories of 
knowledge. Watching Professor Haack critique the “standpoint theorists” 
was a little like watching a chess grandmaster defeat all opponents in a 
simultaneous exhibition, blindfolded. 

Haack told the audience that she finds the idea of “female ways of 
knowing” as puzzling as the idea of a Republican epistemology or a senior 
citizens’ epistemology. 4 Some of her arguments are too technical to review 
here. I cite only a few of her criticisms: 

I am not convinced that there are any distinctively female “ways of 
knowing.” All any human being has to go on, in figuring out how 
things are, is his or her sensory and introspective experience, and 
the explanatory theorizing he or she devises to accommodate it; and 
differences in cognitive style, like differences in handwriting, seem 
more individual than gender-determined. 5 

She pointed out that theories based on the idea that oppression or 
deprivation results in a privileged standpoint are especially implausible; 
if they were right, the most disadvantaged groups would produce the best 
scientists. In fact, the oppressed and socially marginalized often have little 
access to the information and education needed to excel in science, which 
on the whole puts them at a serious “epistemic disadvantage.” Professor 
Haack also observed that the female theorists who argue that oppression 
confers an advantage are not themselves oppressed. She asks: if oppres¬ 
sion and poverty are indeed so advantageous, why do so many highly 
advantaged, middle-class women consider themselves so well situated 

Ms. Haack identifies herself as an “Old Feminist” who opposes the 
attempt “of the New Feminists to colonize philosophy.” Her reasons for 
rejecting feminist epistemologies were cogent and, to most of the profes- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

sional audience, clearly convincing. Unfortunately, her cool, sensible ad¬ 
monitions are not likely to slow down the campaign to promote “women’s 
ways of knowing.” 

The gender feminists’ conviction, more ideological than scientific, that 
they belong to a radically insightful vanguard that compares favorably 
with the Copernicuses and Darwins of the past animates their revisionist 
theories of intellectual and artistic excellence and inspires their program 
to transform the knowledge base. Their exultation contrasts with the deep 
reluctance of most other academics to challenge the basic assumptions 
underlying feminist theories of knowledge and education. The confidence 
of the one and the trepidation of the other combine to make transforma- 
tionism a powerfully effective movement that has so far proceeded un¬ 
checked in the academy. 

Yolanda Moses is the newly appointed president of City University of 
New York. She was formerly the chair of women’s studies and provost at 
California State University at Dominguez Hills. Her anti-intellectual ideas 
might seem surprising to anyone unfamiliar with the fashionable doctrine 
that extols the new “ways of knowing” while devaluing the traditional 
male European approach to “knowing”: “Institutions of higher education 
in the United States are products of Western society in which masculine 
values like an orientation toward achievement and objectivity are valued 
over cooperation, connectedness, and subjectivity.” 6 In President Moses’ 
view, the masculine emphasis on achievement and objectivity is an obsta¬ 
cle to progress! She also finds it deplorable that faculty members’ research 
has been valued above their community service. “That will have to change 
if cultural pluralism is to flourish.” 7 

Despite its influence, the gender feminist project of “transforming the 
knowledge base” must in the end prove to be a deep embarrassment to 
the feminist movement. As Susan Haack has pointed out, the belief in 
female “ways of knowing” is reminiscent of male chauvinist denigrations 
of women. Those who promote it and cheer it on find themselves cheering 
alongside those who have always held that women think differently from 

The transformationists are out to reconstruct our cultural and scientific 
heritage. Even if one believes that this badly needs doing (and I, for one, 
do not), there is little reason to be sanguine that the gender feminists are 
intellectually equipped to do it. Their belief in the superiority of “women’s 
ways of knowing” fosters a sense of solidarity and cultural community 
that seems to have allowed them to overlook the fact that their doctrine 

New Epistemologies 


tends to segregate women in a culture of their own, that it increases social 
divisiveness along gender lines, and that it may seriously weaken the 
American academy. Nor does it worry these feminists that their teaching 
allows insecure men once again to patronize and denigrate women as the 
naive sex that thinks with its heart, not with its head. 

The early feminists of the First Wave, fighting for equity and equal 
opportunities in politics and education, rejected all theories of male su¬ 
periority. However, they were not tempted to retaliate against sexism by 
making unfounded claims that women were superior to men. They knew 
all too well the dangers of promoting divisive dogmas about male and 
female ways of knowing. They were especially leery of being called more 
intuitive, hence less analytical, less “rational,” than men. 

An event in the life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the great foremother of 
American feminism, illustrates the attitude that the First Wave feminists 
had toward those who believed that women negotiated the world less 
with skeptical reason than with a trusting intuition. Stanton had discov¬ 
ered that her four-day-old baby had a bent collarbone. The doctor placed 
a bandage on the shoulder and secured it by tying it to the child’s wrist. 
Soon after he left, Stanton noticed the child’s hand was blue. She removed 
the bandage and summoned a second doctor. He did much the same 
thing. Again the baby’s fingers turned blue soon after the doctor left. Over 
the protests of the nurse, Ms. Stanton removed the bandage a second 
time. She told the nurse, “What we want is a little pressure on that bone; 
that is what both of those men have aimed at. How can we get it without 
involving the arm, is the question.” 8 Ms. Stanton then soaked strips of 
linen in a solution of water and arnica and wrapped them around the 
baby “like a pair of suspenders over the shoulder, crossing them both in 
front and behind, pinning the ends to the diaper.” This provided the 
necessary pressure without stopping the child’s circulation, and the baby 
soon recovered. 

When the doctors returned, Ms. Stanton told them how inadequate 
their bandages had been and how she had solved the problem. They 
smiled knowingly at one another. “Well after all, a mother’s instinct is 
better than a man’s reason,” one remarked. “Thank you, gentlemen,” 
Stanton replied, “there was no instinct about it. I did some hard thinking 
before I saw how I could get pressure on the shoulder without impeding 
the circulation, as you did.” 9 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Promoting a gynocentric critique of knowledge is unworthy of a dig¬ 
nified feminism. It is also educationally harmful. We hear a lot about how 
poorly our entering college students compare with American students of 
past decades or with their contemporaries in foreign countries. When 
respect for learning and academic achievement is at such a low point, 
why should feminist academics be contributing to it? 

Creating a climate of gender mistrust of received knowledge only adds 
to the rampant anti-intellectualism of our troubled culture. There is a 
more constructive way, and it is the way of the classical equity feminist 
who asks for women “a fair field and no favors” in joining men to create 
the culture of the future. My own “equity feminist” creed is eloquently 
articulated by Iris Murdoch. Murdoch still believes in a “culture of hu¬ 
manity,” and her warnings about the dangers of the divisive, mean- 
spirited alternative are timely. 

Men “created culture” because they were free to do so, and women 
were treated as inferior and made to believe that they were. Now 
free women must join in the human world of work and creation on 
an equal footing and be everywhere in art, science, business, poli¬ 
tics, etc. . . . However, to lay claim, in this battle, to female ethics, 
female criticism, female knowledge... is to set up a new female 
ghetto. (Chauvinist males should be delighted by the move. . .) 
“Women’s Studies” can mean that women are led to read mediocre 
or peripheral books by women rather than the great books of hu¬ 
manity in general. ... It is a dead end, in danger of simply separat¬ 
ing women from the mainstream thinking of the human race. Such 
cults can also waste the time of young people who may be reading 
all the latest books on feminism instead of studying the difficult and 
important things that belong to the culture of humanity [her em¬ 
phases]. 10 

Transformationism is galvanizing, and it has proved to be profitable. 
No one is offering money for a workshop that would teach its participants 
that men and women are not all that different, that the traditional stan¬ 
dards are better left untransformed by the ideologues who believe in 
“women-centeredness,” or that students are better off learning a universal 
curriculum that is not gender-divisive. The thoughts of Susan Haack, Iris 
Murdoch, and a handful of critics of transformationism do not lend them¬ 
selves to the workshop mode: they cannot be expressed as a “five-phase 
theory” that lends itself so neatly to workshops and retreats. It is almost 
impossible to get funding to implement ideas that favor moderate reform 

New Epistemologies 


rather than exciting Copemican transformations. By supporting and pro¬ 
moting transformationism, not only do school administrators build up 
their resumes, they get to feel they are participating in the educational 
equivalent of the storming of the Bastille. Equity feminists have nothing 
that exciting to offer. 

Transformationists do not invite criticism or intellectual scrutiny of 
their assumptions, and it is not likely that the transformation movement 
will be checked by fair and open debate. Women’s conferences tend to 
be rallies of the faithful. Critics who do venture doubts about the value of 
the transformationist movement are dismissed as “right-wing extremists,” 
and their arguments are ignored. The usual system of checks and balances 
by means of peer review seems to have fallen apart. 

Yet although the transformationists have every reason to celebrate their 
many successes, they have recently experienced a setback from an unex¬ 
pected quarter. When McIntosh, Minnich, and their followers demanded 
that the oppressive European, white, male culture being taught in the 
schools be radically transformed, they had not imagined that anyone 
could look upon them as oppressors. The transformationist leaders are 
not men, but they are white, they are “European,” they are middle-class. 
Minority women have begun to deny that the leaders of the women’s 
movement have any right to speak for them. Most members of the women 
of color caucus boycotted the 1992 Austin National Women’s Studies 
Conference I attended for its failure to recognize and respect their political 
identity. The slighted group sent the conferees an African-American wom¬ 
en’s quilt made from dashiki fabrics, as both a reprimand and a “healing 
gesture.” The assembled white feminists sat before it in resentful but 
guilty silence. In the game of moral one-upmanship that gender feminists 
are so good at, they had been outquilted, as it were, by a more marginal¬ 
ized constituency. Clearly any number of minority groups can play the 
victimology game, and almost all could play it far more plausibly than 
the socially well-positioned Heilbruns, Mclntoshes, and Minniches. 

An obvious recourse is to deflect criticism by “confessing” at the outset 
one’s privileged status. Two feminist editors of Feminism, a new women’s 
studies textbook, introduce themselves as follows: 

“We” are Robyn and Diane; we speak as white middle-class hetero¬ 
sexual American feminist academics in our early thirties—to cover 
a number of the categories feminist criticism has lately been empha¬ 
sizing as significant to one’s reading and speaking position: race, 
class, sexual orientation, nationality, political positioning, educa¬ 
tion level, and age. Colleagues at the University of Vermont since 


Who Stole Feminism? 

1989, we two have found that we share passionate interests in 
fiction, feminism, and quiltmaking. 11 

More and more frequently, the gender feminists who run the women’s 
centers, the workshops, the transformationist projects, and the various 
women’s conferences are finding themselves accused of being elitist and 
members of oppressor groups. 

In the spring of 1993, twenty-five hundred women gathered in Albu¬ 
querque, New Mexico, for a spiritual conference organized by the Catho¬ 
lic feminist “Women-Church” movement. Feminist inclusiveness was the 
order of the day, and so all goddesses were honored equally—from Hera, 
Artemis, and Isis to Mary of the Christian tradition. 12 The participants 
had been told to bring drums, and all events were accompanied by drum 
beating. This thematic ritual was intended as a way of honoring Native 
Americans. But it was not well received. Peter Steinfels of the New York 
Times was there, and he reported that a “traditional American Indian Pipe 
Ceremony was nearly drowned out by the drumming of goddess worship¬ 
ers who were ‘raising power’ not far away in the Albuquerque Convention 
Center.” 13 Soon, word came that the drumming of the white women had 
offended the Native American women. 

That practice [of drum-beating] was implicitly questioned when a 
general session on spirituality turned into a probing discussion of 
how religious voyagers from dominant cultures enhance their spiri¬ 
tual experience by expropriating exotic practices from the religions 
of minorities, just as well-to-do tourists decorate themselves and 
their houses with the crafts and art of indigenous people. . .. Amid 
growing complaints from several groups about latent racism in the 
conference—the organizers requested that, out of sympathy for 
those who had been offended, the drums not be played. 

So the white women goddess worshipers could not beat their drums, 
and even their well-known predilection for peasant jewelry and ethnic 
clothing was put in question. 

The leaders and theorists of academic feminism have prudently sought 
to ward off minority censure by placing women’s issues under the broad 
and popular umbrella of multiculturalism. President Moses took that tack 
when she castigated males who value objectivity and achievement above 
community service, warning her City University faculty that such values 
were inconsistent with an emphasis on “cultural pluralism.” But “cultural 
pluralism” has many sides, each with its own sharp edge. The well- 

New Epistemologies 


educated, white, middle-class women who have for the past two decades 
been denouncing men for treating them as “the Other” now find them¬ 
selves denounced for having marginalized and silenced Native American 
women, Hispanic women, disabled women, and other groups, all of 
whom claim to be victims in a complex ecology of domination and sub¬ 

Even the beloved “click experience” has become a symbol of white, 
middle-class privilege. Two African-American feminists, Barbara Smith 
and Beverly Smith, have written an article unmasking the elitism of 
women who describe the “click” as “an experience that makes you realize 
your oppression as a woman.” 14 They point out that clicks are for those 
who are relatively privileged. Minorities, whether male or female, do not 
experience them: “The day-to-day immediacy of violence and oppression” 
suffices well enough to remind them of their condition. 

The feminist leaders and theorists are somewhat discomfited by these 
unexpected reproaches. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the 
self-assurance and resolve of the gender feminists. They are not about to 
relinquish their dominance, not even to other women whose bona fides 
as victims are greater than their own. 

The typical gathering of gender feminist academics illustrates the un¬ 
easy and somewhat unstable compromise that has been struck. The au¬ 
dience consists largely of the white, middle-class women who are the 
mainstays of academic feminism. On the other hand, minority women are 
given strong representation in the panels and symposia, and the rhetoric 
of feminist transformation is given a multicultural cast. 

The April 1993 Parsippany, New Jersey, conference on transforming 
the curriculum that I discussed in chapter 3 is a case in point. All the 
leading gender feminist transformationists were there: Catharine Stimp- 
son, Annette Kolodny, the Schuster and Van Dyne team, Elizabeth Min- 
nich, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Sandra Harding, and, of course, the 
ubiquitous Peggy McIntosh. 15 

Professor Paula Rothenberg, the conference moderator and self- 
described “Marxist-feminist,” welcomed us and invited us to join her “to 
imagine together a curriculum for the next century.” The mood was 
generally upbeat, but one presenter after another warned of impending 
backlash. Rothenberg cautioned the audience to be suspicious of the 
Clinton administration’s announced commitment to diversity; she called 
it an “ethnic foods and fiestas” version of inclusiveness. 

Annette Kolodny explained how her position as dean of humanities at 
the University of Arizona had given her the means to promote transfor¬ 
mationist changes there. Kolodny had been instrumental in introducing 


Who Stole Feminism? 

“new promotion and tenure” proposals that reward and protect transfor¬ 
mationist work at the University of Arizona. Kolodny also reported on 
the transformation retreats where “outside facilitators” are brought in to 
help selected faculty and administrators “rethink how they teach.” She 
hailed the New Jersey Project as the inspiration for Arizona. “Thank you, 
Paula!” she cried. 

A discordant note was introduced by Beverly Guy-Sheftall, director of 
the Women’s Research Center at Spelman College, who attacked Kolod- 
ny’s charts. “What about those of us who are women and members of a 
minority? Which chart includes us?” Ms. Guy-Sheftall conceded that 
identifying a common black perspective presented difficulties. Some Af- 
rocentrists, for example, hold views that conflict with those of the black 
lesbian movement. Whose point of view is to count as representative? Ms. 
Guy-Sheftall spoke of the issue of fragmented representation as a “prob- 
lematized” area. Calling a subject “problematized” often serves to paper 
over the embarrassing and touchy questions it raises; this is especially 
true of questions about the politics of group identity. 

Like several other speakers who touched on the future of curricular 
transformation, Guy-Sheftall confessed she is “still not sure we have a 
clue about what this really means as we approach the twenty-hrst cen¬ 
tury.” But her doubts did not dampen her enthusiasm for the transfor¬ 
mation movement or her determination to help it get more funding. 
Indeed, Guy-Sheftall, a consultant to the Ford Foundation, has been 
advising the foundation that support for women’s studies and transfor¬ 
mation work should intensify during this paradoxical period. 16 

Professor Rothenberg introduced the New Jersey chancellor of higher 
education, Edward Goldberg, as “the Fairy Godmother of the New Jersey 
Project.” Middle-aged and balding, sporting a suit and tie and a paunch, 
Goldberg looked as though he would be more at home at a conference of 
Shriners or Legionnaires. He spoke pridefully of the millions of dollars 
that New Jersey had put into the Curriculum Transformation Project and 
expressed hope that other states would soon follow suit. For him, curric¬ 
ulum transformation is a matter of basic decency. Curriculum transfor¬ 
mation, he announced, is “a vindication of the simple and honest concept 
that scholarship should reflect contributions of all.” When I heard Mr. 
Goldberg say this, it confirmed my belief that many well-meaning govern¬ 
ment officials do not understand the implications of the feminist demand 
for a more woman-centered curriculum. Goldberg is not a “gynocrat”; he 
is probably an old-fashioned equity feminist who wants a fair deal for 
women in education. Apparently he did not see that beneath the charges 
of sexism and gender unfairness is an illiberal, irrational, and anti-intel- 

New Epistemologies 


lectual program that is a threat to everything he probably believes in: 
American democracy, liberal education, academic freedom, and the kind 
of mainstream feminism that has gained women near-equality in Ameri¬ 
can society. 

Did Goldberg stay long enough to appreciate what an unusual gather¬ 
ing of academics this was? Was he surprised by an academic audience in 
which the atmosphere of mass agreement and self-congratulation was 
almost total? Did he count the number of times the leading transforma¬ 
tionists admitted they had no idea what they were doing? Had he any idea 
of the number of workshops on thorny topics like “Resistance in the 
Classroom” or “Anti-Oppression Methods of Teaching”? 1 wondered what 
he would have made of the packed afternoon session on transforming the 
science curriculum in which Sandra Harding discussed how science was 
part of a discredited “bourgeois” Christian legacy practically indistin¬ 
guishable from imperialism, its cognitive core “tainted by sexism and 

Richard Bernstein of the New York Times attended the Parsippany con¬ 
ference. When I asked him what he thought of Harding’s presentation he 
said that her thesis was absurd: if Western science is repressive and elitist 
and part of a bourgeois Christian legacy, why are the Japanese and the 
Chinese so good at it? Bernstein, who had spent several years in China as 
Time magazine’s bureau chief, and who has written a wonderful book on 
China, told me that throughout the twentieth century Chinese reformers 
have had great respect for Western science as a progressive force. “Science 
and Democracy” was the slogan of the celebrated May 4th Movement 
between 1915 and 1918. Chinese reformers saw Western science as a 
powerful weapon against the authoritarianism and superstition that were 
the bulwark of the imperial system. Neither Bernstein nor 1 ventured a 
criticism of Ms. Harding’s views. We were both very much aware that it 
would have been exceedingly indecorous for anyone to raise objections. 
This was a gathering of “connected knowers”: hard questions from “sep¬ 
arate knowers” were decidedly unwelcome. 

Ronald Takaki, the Berkeley expert on ethnic studies, was easily the 
most popular figure at the Parsippany gathering, and not least because 
his presence conferred on the feminist transformation projects the cachet 
of a multicultural movement. Gender feminists have found it is wise to 
ally themselves with men and women of non-European descent who are 
critical of Western culture for its “Eurocentrism.” A more general offen¬ 
sive on Western “Eurocentric” culture (created by and controlled by 


Who Stole Feminism? 

“bourgeois white males of European descent”) is then prosecuted under 
the banners of “cultural pluralism,” “inclusiveness,” and “diversity.” Fem¬ 
inist leaders have eagerly embraced these causes partly to deflect attention 
from the largely white, middle-class character of their own movement and 
partly to camouflage the divisive misandrism that inspires them but is off- 
putting to others. The propitiatory strategy of placing their radical fem¬ 
inism under the banner of “inclusiveness” has also been successful in an 
internal respect: it has given many feminist activists the feeling that they 
are part of a wider struggle for social justice. Finally, the call for “inclu¬ 
siveness” usefully diverts attention from the uncomfortable but undeni¬ 
able fact that the feminists are the ones getting most of the money, the 
professorships, and the well-paid (but vaguely defined) jobs inside the 
burgeoning new victim/bias industry. 

Takaki began by recognizing that no one seemed to know exactly what 
a transformed curriculum would look like. And he asked, “How do we 
do it?” “How do we conceptualize it?” He advised the assembled gender 
feminists to listen carefully to his lecture because he was going to show 
them what a transformationist lecture actually looks like. “I will do it! I 
will practice it,” he said. 

He told us about the misunderstood and alienated Chinese railroad 
workers in California, and about the exploited and denigrated Irish fac¬ 
tory girls in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the nineteenth century, mixing his 
facts with remarks about British colonialism and the Opium War. He read 
us some telegrams sent by a young Chinese railroad worker to some male 
friends urging them to help him in his plans to marry a young Chinese 
woman. Takaki explained that he studied telegrams because the Chinese 
left few documents for study. The telegrams—which Takaki called “texts” 
—revealed the powerlessness of the prospective Chinese bride. (It seemed 
to me they revealed much about Chinese immigrant attitudes toward 
women that reflected on the status of women in China, a point Takaki 
neglected to make.) Takaki urged the audience to listen to the silences. 
The silence of the Irish factory workers, the silence of the Chinese immi¬ 
grants. The silence of the bride. The silence of millions of aliens who are 
a part of American history yet rarely, if ever, figure in the narrative. 

“Blame the historians!” he cried. He singled out Oscar Handlin and 
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., both Pulitzer Prize historians, for special censure. 
Few in the crowd seemed to know much about Handlin’s seminal writ¬ 
ings on American history. More recognized Schlesinger, who is a liberal 
Democrat but a critic of much of what passes under the banner of multi- 
culturalism, and they hissed and booed at the mention of his name. 
Takaki attacked Handlin’s The Uprooted and Schlesinger’s The Age of Jack- 

New Epistemologies 


son on the ground that both “completely ignored” the Chinese, the Cher¬ 
okee Indians, and the African-Americans. Takaki did not tell the audience 
of nonhistorians that the books were written in 1941 and 1945, respec¬ 

The Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom, editor of the award-win¬ 
ning Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups and the author of 
numerous books and articles on ethnic history, told me that at the time 
Handlin and Schlesinger wrote their books, few historians addressed race, 
class, or gender issues. In recent decades, research on immigrant groups 
—Chinese, Jewish, and especially Irish factory workers—has been very 
much in vogue. “Now we think of nothing else,” said Thernstrom. Ethnic 
studies are thriving. African-American history and Native American his¬ 
tory are now respected and established fields with recognized experts and 
classics. Takaki was attacking a straw man. 

As a point of fact, Handlin’s The Uprooted portrays the archetypal 
patterns and configurations of immigrant experience, and it is still a 
classic. Handlin is now in his late seventies, and many consider him to 
be among the greatest American historians of this century. I called him to 
get his reaction to Takaki’s complaints. 

“The whole attack is silly,” he said. “And too bad he did not do his 
homework. In 1954 I wrote a book, The American People , which does give 
an account of the Asian immigrant experience . . . but what can you do?” 

I had a look at The American People and found that Handlin does 
indeed give attention to the Asian experience at the turn of the century. 
He describes not only the loneliness of the Chinese but also their re¬ 
sourcefulness. He also considered the effects of the paucity of females on 
the immigrants and of the racism they were subject to, topics Takaki 
discussed as if for the first time in history. 

I recently appeared with Mr. Takaki on a local (Boston) PBS discussion 
panel on multiculturalism. 17 He was charming and personable, and I 
joined the Parsippany crowd in liking him. While we were waiting for 
the show to begin, I asked him why he had not given Mr. Handlin credit 
for his treatment of Asian-Americans in the 1954 book. “What book is 
that?” he asked. 

Takaki’s New Jersey talk was billed as a transformationist lecture that 
was to show how the new inclusive learning handles the sensitive themes 
of the dispossessed. The success of the talk depended on the audience 
being completely unaware not only of Handlin’s work but of thirty years 
of American social history. But success was assured. The conference had 
not invited a single person who could possibly be expected to challenge 
anything being said by any presenter. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Professor Thernstrom, for example, was very surprised to hear that 
Takaki spoke about the Irish factory girls of Lowell, Massachusetts, as 
“silenced”: they are in fact among the most studied groups in American 
social history. But no one remotely like Professor Thernstrom had been 

The spring issue of the journal Transformations had been distributed at 
the registration desk. Inside, the editor, Sylvia Baer, compared the uni¬ 
versity curriculum to a dilapidated two-hundred-year-old house she was 
helping to renovate: “We can all help each other scrape and paint and 
design and build our curriculums. It’s hard work, all this renovation, and 
sometimes the decisions are risky—but look at the glorious results. . . . 
Together we can do this. I invite you to help with the planning, the 
building, and the singing and dancing.” 18 

The Parsippany audience, which consisted almost exclusively of white 
American middle-class females, was in fact thrilled by Takaki’s “renova¬ 
tions.” Paula Rothenberg and Annette Kolodny were beaming throughout 
the talk, and they applauded it wildly. Takaki was the topic of conversa¬ 
tion for the next two days. By providing a vivid example of what a 
transformationist approach could do, he had helped them all “to imagine 
together a curriculum for the next century.” He had said he would do it, 
and he did. 

An exhilarating feeling of momentousness routinely surfaces at gender 
feminist gatherings. Elizabeth Minnich is among those who invoke Co¬ 
pernicus and Darwin to give us an idea of the vital importance of what 
the feminist theorists have discovered. She and several other transforma¬ 
tionists took part in a panel discussion called “Transforming the Knowl¬ 
edge Base” in Washington, D.C., in February 1989. The Ford-funded 
National Council of Research on Women published the proceedings and 
reported the mood: “There was a palpable sense of making history in the 
room as we concluded our discussions.” 19 

But making history and contributing to progress are not necessarily the 
same. It is in fact true that the transformationists are having a significant 
effect on American education. They are imposing a narrow political 
agenda, diluting traditional scholarly standards, and using up scarce re¬ 
sources. They are doing these things in the name of a transformation 
project they themselves do not seem fully to comprehend. 

Chapter 5 

The Feminist Classroom 

The exhilaration of feeling themselves in the vanguard of a new con¬ 
sciousness infuses feminist pedagogues with a doctrinal fervor unique in 
the academy. Here is how five professors from the University of Massa¬ 
chusetts describe the feminist classroom: 

The feminist classroom is the place to use what we know as women 
to appropriate and transform, totally, a domain which has been 
men’s. . . . Let us welcome the intrusion/infusion of emotionality— 
love, rage, anxiety, eroticism—into intellect as a step toward healing 
the fragmentation capitalism and patriarchy have demanded from 
us. 1 

Women: A Feminist Perspective is said to be the best-selling women’s 
studies textbook of all time. The first selection, “Sexual Terrorism” by 
Carole J. Sheffield, is a good example of how the feminist classroom can 
“infuse” anxiety and rage. Ms. Sheffield describes an “ordinary” event that 


Who Stole Feminism? 

took place early one evening when she was alone in a Laundromat: “The 
laundromat was brightly lit; and my car was the only one in the lot. 
Anyone passing by could readily see that I was alone and isolated. Know¬ 
ing that rape is a crime of opportunity, I became terrified.” Ms. Sheffield 
left her laundry in the washer and dashed back to her car, sitting in it 
with the doors locked and the windows up. “When the wash was com¬ 
pleted, I dashed in, threw the clothes into the drier, and ran back out to 
my car. When the clothes were dry, I tossed them recklessly into the 
basket and hurriedly drove away to fold them in the security of my home. 
Although I was not victimized in a direct, physical way or by objective or 
measurable standards, I felt victimized. It was, for me, a terrifying expe¬ 
rience.” At home, her terror subsides and turns to anger: “Mostly I was 
angry at being unfree: a hostage of a culture that, for the most part, 
encourages violence against females, instructs men in the methodology of 
sexual violence, and provides them with ready justification for their vio¬ 
lence. . . . Following my experience at the Laundromat, I talked with my 
students about terrorization.” 2 

Any course (be it on Baroque art, English composition, or French 
drama) can be taught in this “women-centered” way. Committed instruc¬ 
tors speak of their “feminist classrooms” as “liberated zones” or “safe 
spaces” where “silenced women” will be free for the first time to speak 
out in a secure gynocentric ambience. This is a pedagogy that aims above 
all to teach the student to unmask the inimical workings of the patriarchy. 

We get a good idea of what students experience in the feminist class¬ 
room by looking at a “model” introductory women’s studies course de¬ 
veloped by twelve Rutgers University professors. 3 One of the stated goals 
of the course is to “challenge and change the social institutions and 
practices that create and perpetuate systems of oppression.” Forty percent 
of the student’s grade is to come from: 

1. performing some “outrageous” and “liberating” act outside of class 
and then sharing feelings and reactions with the class; 

2. keeping a journal of “narratives of personal experience, expressions 
of emotion, dream accounts, poetry, doodles, etc.”; and 

3. forming small in-class consciousness-raising groups. 

The professors in the Rutgers course hand out a list of mandatory 
classroom “ground rules.” According to one of these rules, students agree 
to “create a safe atmosphere for open discussion. If members of the class 
wish to make comments that they do not want repeated outside the 
classroom, they can preface their remarks with a request and the class 

The Feminist Classroom 


will agree not to repeat the remarks.” This confidentiality rule is critical 
in classes in which the instructor encourages students to reveal whether 
a family member, boyfriend, or stranger has molested, raped, battered, or 
otherwise victimized them. 

The general effect of feminist pedagogy is described in a 1990 “Report 
to the Professions” by five women’s studies leaders: 

Women’s studies students typically undergo a profound transfor¬ 
mation as they claim more knowledge. They pass through an iden¬ 
tifiable series of moments of recognition. . . . Such insights are 
followed by moments of empowerment in which patriarchal frame¬ 
works and perceptions are modified, redefined, or rejected alto¬ 
gether and replaced by a newly emerging view of the self and 
society. The difficulty and complexity of this process . . . cannot be 
overemphasized. . . . Breaking what feminist writer Tillie Olsen calls 
the “habits of a lifetime” is no trivial matter. It is accompanied by 
the full range of human resistance, by continual attraction and re¬ 
pulsion, denial and recognition. 4 

Professor Susan Arpad, who has been teaching women’s studies courses 
at California State University at Fresno for almost fifteen years, describes 
the powerful effect the courses have on both student and teacher: 

It is a radical change, questioning the fundamental nature of every¬ 
thing they know. ... At its worst, it can lead to a kind of psycholog¬ 
ical breakdown. At its best, it necessitates a period of adjustment. 

... On a daily basis, I talk to students and colleagues who are 
euphoric as a result of their change of consciousness. ... I also talk 
to other students and colleagues who are stuck in a stage of anger 
or despair. 5 

There are some solid scholarly courses offered by women’s studies 
programs, where the goal is simply to teach subjects like women’s poetry 
or women’s history in a nonrevisionist way. Unfortunately such courses 
are not the norm. In their report, the women’s studies officers included 
thirty-seven sample syllabi, of which the Rutgers “model syllabus” was 
given pride of place. Buried among the thirty-seven syllabi were two that 
were relatively free of ideology and pedagogical gimmicks. 

One of these was a course called “Southern Women: Black and White” 
given by Professors Susan Tush and Virginia Gould (the report does not 
say where they teach). The students read well-regarded historical and 


Who Stole Feminism? 

sociological texts, such as Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s Within the Plantation 
Household, Charles Joyner’s Down by the Riverside, and Eugene Genovese’s 
Roll Jordan Roll. V. S. Naipaul’s A Turn in the South was on the list—as 
well as works by Kate Chopin, Ellen Glasgow, and August Evans Wilson. 
I was sorry not to find Eudora Welty or Flannery O’Connor, who are 
generally esteemed as two of the most outstanding southern women writ¬ 
ers. All the same, it appears to be a solid course. Unfortunately, courses 
like this one are the exception. The Rutgers model is more the norm, not 
only for women’s studies but for all “feminist classrooms.” 

For the past few years I have reviewed hundreds of syllabi from wom¬ 
en’s studies courses, attended more feminist conferences than I care to 
remember, studied the new “feminist pedagogy,” reviewed dozens of 
texts, journals, newsletters, and done a lot of late-into-the-night reading 
of e-mail letters that thousands of “networked” women’s studies teachers 
send to one another. I have taught feminist theory. I have debated gender 
feminists on college campuses around the country, and on national tele¬ 
vision and radio. My experience with academic feminism and my immer¬ 
sion in the ever-growing gender feminist literature have served to deepen 
my conviction that the majority of women’s studies classes and other 
classes that teach a “reconceptualized” subject matter are unscholarly, 
intolerant of dissent, and full of gimmicks. In other words, they are a 
waste of time. And although they attract female students because of their 
social ambience, they attract almost no men. They divert the energies of 
students—especially young women—who sorely need to be learning 
how to live in a world that demands of them applicable talents and skills, 
not feminist fervor or ideological rectitude. 

Journalist Karen Lehrman visited women’s studies programs at Berke¬ 
ley, the University of Iowa, Smith College, and Dartmouth, audited al¬ 
most thirty classes, and interviewed many professors and students for a 
story in Mother Jones: “In many classes discussions alternate between the 
personal and the political, with mere pit stops at the academic. Sometimes 
they are filled with unintelligible post-structuralist jargon; sometimes they 
consist of consciousness-raising psychobabble, with the students’ feelings 
and experiences valued as much as anything the professor or texts have 
to offer.” 6 Ms. Lerhman considers this a betrayal: “A hundred years ago, 
women were fighting for the right to learn math, science, Latin—to be 
educated like men; today, many women are content to get their feelings 
heard, their personal problems aired, their instincts and intuition re¬ 
spected.” 7 

The feminist classroom does little to prepare students to cope in the 
world of work and culture. It is an embarrassing scandal that, in the name 

The Feminist Classroom 


of feminism, young women in our colleges and universities are taking 
courses in feminist classrooms that subject them to a lot of bad prose, 
psychobabble, and “new age” nonsense. What has real feminism to do 
with sitting around in circles and talking about our feelings on menstrua¬ 
tion? To use a phrase much used by resenter feminists, the feminist 
classroom shortchanges women students. It wastes their time and gives 
them bad intellectual habits. It isolates them, socially and academically. 
While male students are off studying such “vertical” subjects as engineer¬ 
ing and biology, women in feminist classrooms are sitting around being 
“safe” and “honoring” feelings. In this way, gender feminist pedagogy 
plays into old sexist stereotypes that extol women’s capacity for intuition, 
emotion, and empathy while denigrating their capacity to think objec¬ 
tively and systematically in the way men can. 

A parent should think very carefully before sending a daughter to one 
of the more gender-feminized colleges. Any school has the freedom to 
transform itself into a feminist bastion, but because the effect on the 
students is so powerful it ought to be honest about its attitude. I would 
like to see Wellesley College, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Mills, and the 
University of Minnesota—among the more extreme examples—print the 
following announcement on the first page of their bulletins: 

We will help your daughter discover the extent to which she has 
been in complicity with the patriarchy. We will encourage her to 
reconstruct herself through dialogue with us. She may become en¬ 
raged and chronically offended. She will very likely reject the reli¬ 
gious and moral codes you raised her with. She may well distance 
herself from family and friends. She may change her appearance, 
and even her sexual orientation. She may end up hating you (her 
father) and pitying you (her mother). After she has completed her 
reeducation with us, you will certainly be out tens of thousands of 
dollars and very possibly be out one daughter as well. 

At the Austin conference, my sister and I attended a packed workshop 
called “White Male Hostility in the Feminist Classroom,” led by two 
female assistant professors from the State University of New York at 
Plattsburgh. What to do about young men who refuse to use gender- 
neutral pronouns? Most agreed that the instructor should grade them 
down. One of the Plattsburghers told us about a male student who had 
“baited her” when she had defended a fifteen-year-old’s right to have an 
abortion without parental consent. The student had asked, “What about 


Who Stole Feminism? 

a 15-year-old that wanted to marry a 30-year-old?” She referred to this as 
a “trap.” In philosophy, it is known as a legitimate counterexample to be 
treated seriously and dealt with by counterargument. But she wanted to 
know what advice we had to offer. 

The agreed-upon remedy was to say to this misguided young man, “I 
am trying to figure out why you are asking this kind of question.” Some¬ 
one noted that female students in the class can usually be relied upon to 
keep male students in check. One woman got a big laugh when she told 
of a feminist student who silenced an “obnoxious male” by screaming 
“Shut up, you fucker!” 

The group was more perplexed about what to do with recalcitrant 
females. Now that women’s courses are required on more and more 
campuses, the feminist pedagogues expect more resistance. As one partic¬ 
ipant triumphantly noted, “If the students are comfortable, we are not 
doing our job.” 

In the feminist classroom, students encounter committed teachers 
eager to interpret their lives, their societies, their intellectual heritage for 
them—in no uncertain terms. Here, for example, is how Professor Joyce 
Trebilcot of Washington University in St. Louis sees her primary peda¬ 
gogical duty: “If the classroom situation is very heteropatriarchal—a large 
beginning class of 50 or 60 students, say, with few feminist students—I 
am likely to define my task as largely one of recruitment... of persuading 
students that women are oppressed.” 8 

Persuading female students that they are oppressed is the first step in 
the arduous consciousness-raising process. Professor Ann Ferguson, a 
University of Massachusetts philosopher, uses her philosophy classes to 
help students uncover their feelings of “anger and oppression”: “There 
are various techniques which aid such personal recovery of feelings, in¬ 
cluding personal journals, role playing . . . class and teacher collectively 
sharing personal experiences and feelings.” 9 Students like strong-minded 
teachers who breathe commitment, and the feminist teacher has her ap¬ 
peal. But it is fair to say that most students are not “buying into” gender 
feminism. Many resent the attempt to recruit them. Even more resent the 
shift away from a traditional pedagogy whose primary objective is teach¬ 
ing students a subject matter that will be useful to them. Professor Fer¬ 
guson has also had to work out techniques to deal with student 
resentment toward her. She admits she is routinely accused of being 
“narrow-minded and polemical.” 10 

The Parsippany conference on curricular transformation included sev¬ 
eral workshops on student resistance: in “Resistance in the Classroom,” 
Professor K. Edington from Towson State University referred to her male 

The Feminist Classroom 


students as “Chips” and the females as “Buffys.” Professor Edington was 
delighted by an “enormous federal grant” that Towson State had received 
for transformation work. But she did not give the impression of liking her 
students, and she certainly seems to have little regard for them morally 
or intellectually. Having told us about the Buffys and the Chips and 
about what “all the preppy clones believe,” she went on, without a hint 
of irony, to say, “We have to teach them to confront stereotypes and bias 

Although they are themselves doctrinally immune to criticism—it’s 
really “backlash” in disguise—transformationist teachers are far from in¬ 
different to the dissidents in their classrooms. In a recent issue of Thought 
and Action, the journal on higher education put out by the National 
Education Association, two professors from Fresno State University, Mar¬ 
cia Bedard and Beth Hartung, report on a “crisis” in women’s studies 
courses created by “hostile male students” and their “negative body lan¬ 
guage.” 11 They single out members of “hypermasculine campus subcul¬ 
tures .. . fraternities, organized athletics, and military and police science” 
as especially disruptive. “They never miss a class.” 

What sort of behavior do the Fresno pedagogues consider examples of 
“classroom harassment”? Their list of offenses includes “challenging 
facts,” stating the exceptions to every generalization, and leaping to an 
argument at the first pause in the teacher’s lecture. Professor Hartung says 
students are harder on women’s studies teachers than on teachers of other 
courses: “Male and female students evaluating their women’s studies 
teacher . . . compared to teachers of other courses . . . were more likely to 
make negative and even cruel assessments, even in retrospect.” 12 

Reading between the lines of Ms. Bedard and Ms. Hartung’s report, 
and many others on the subject, we get a clear picture of students trying 
hard to manage all by themselves, with what must be a very frustrating 
classroom situation. The student who is unaware of the charged atmo¬ 
sphere in the feminist classroom quickly learns that humor is not a good 
idea. A University of Michigan sophomore, Shawn Brown, wrote a paper 
for a political science course in which he discussed the difficulties of 
getting reliable polls: 

Let’s say Dave [the] Stud is entertaining three beautiful ladies in his 
penthouse when the phone rings. A pollster on the other end wants 
to know if we should eliminate the capital gains tax. Now Dave is a 
knowledgeable businessperson who cares a lot about this issue. But 
since Dave is “tied up” at the moment, he tells the pollster to 
“bother” someone else. 13 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Deborah Meizlish, a graduate teaching assistant who graded Mr. Brown’s 
paper, was incensed. She wrote in the margins: 

Professor Rosenstone has encouraged me to interpret this comment 
as an example of sexual harassment and to take the appropriate 
formal steps. I have chosen not to do so in this instance. However, 
any future comments, in a paper, in a class or in any dealings [with 
me] will be interpreted as sexual harassment and formal steps will 
be taken. . . . you are forewarned! 

The male professor who read Mr. Brown’s paper had indeed advised 
teaching assistant Deborah Meizlish to hie formal harassment charges. 
The chair, Professor Arlene Saxonhouse, backed Rosenstone’s and Meiz- 
lish’s censuring of Mr. Brown: “There is a difference between censorship 
and expressing concern over a student’s mode of expression.” 14 In a reply 
to Saxonhouse’s letter, an undergraduate, Adam Devore, pointed out that 
“there is also a difference between ‘expressing concern’ and writing, ‘You 
are forewarned!’ ” 

In a case of this kind, faculty do not usually rally to the support of the 
student. However, the incident attracted the attention of Professor Carl 
Cohen, a well-known social philosopher and free speech defender. Pro¬ 
fessor Cohen wrote to the school newspaper, defending Shawn Brown 
and criticizing the chair of the department of political science, the dean, 
and the teaching assistant for their violation of Brown’s right to write as 
he did. Professor Cohen’s arguments were later cited by a member of the 
board of regents who voted against a highly restrictive behavior code 
being proposed for the university. 

Shawn Brown had not meant to offend or even to criticize anyone. For 
the most part, students prudently tend to reserve critical comment until 
after final grades are in and student evaluations can be safely published. 
Dale M. Bauer, a professor of English who teaches composition and intro¬ 
ductory literature courses at Miami University, reported that about half of 
the evaluation responses from two first-year composition and introduc¬ 
tion to literature sections expressed objections to her feminist stance. 15 
Ms. Bauer provides samples, “copied verbatim,” of student complaints: 

I feel this course was dominated and overpowered by feminist doc¬ 
trines and ideals. I feel the feminist movement is very interesting to 
look at, but I got extremely bored with it and it lost all its punch & 
meaning because it was so drilled into our brains. 

The Feminist Classroom 


I. . . think you shouldn’t voice your “feminist” views because we 
don’t need to know that—It’s something that should be left outside 

I found it very offensive that all of our readings focused on femin¬ 

Feminism is an important issue in society—but a very controversial 
one. It needs to be confronted on a personal basis, not in the class¬ 
room. I didn’t appreciate feminist comments on papers or expressed 
about work. This is not the only instructor—others in the English 
Dept, have difficulties leaving personal opinions out of their com¬ 

Characteristically, Ms. Bauer and her colleagues profess not to be dis¬ 
concerted by the negative evaluations. Instead they take them to show 
that renewed efforts are needed. As Ms. Bauer sees it, the question re¬ 
mains “How do we move ourselves out of this political impasse and 
resistance in order to get our students to identify with the political agenda 
of feminism?” 16 She regards her teaching as “a kind of counter-indoctri¬ 
nation.” The need for “counter-indoctrination” was made clear to her 
when she saw the following negative evaluation of herself from a student 
who had taken one of her first-year composition courses: “[The teacher] 
consistently channels class discussions around feminism and does not 
spend time discussing the comments that oppose her beliefs. In fact, she 
usually twists them around to support her beliefs.” 17 

In dealing with this kind of resistance, the feminist pedagogue tends 
to read student criticism as the expression of unacknowledged but deep- 
seated prejudice or fear. “Resistance” is “only to be expected.” After all, 
students have been thoroughly “socialized” to their gender roles and class 
loyalties; only a painful process of reeducation can free them from those 
roles and loyalties. Their very resistance is dramatic evidence of their 
condition. Criticism may cause her to modify her tactics; it can never 
cause her to doubt her cause. 

The gender feminist will usually acknowledge that her aims are indeed 
political and that she is seeking to persuade her students to become active 
in the cause. She justifies turning her classroom into a base in the struggle 
against patriarchy by arguing that all teaching is basically political, that 
all teachers indoctrinate their students, though often without being aware 
that they are doing so. As for the pedagogical ideal of disinterested schol- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

arship and “objective truth,” the gender feminists deny that these ideals 
are attainable. 

The claim that all teaching is a form of indoctrination, usually in the 
service of those who are politically dominant, helps to justify the peda¬ 
gogy of the feminist classroom. Feminist academics often say that apart 
from the enclave of women’s studies, the university curriculum consists 
of “men’s studies.” They mean by this that most of what students normally 
learn is designed to maintain and reinforce the existing patriarchy. To 
anyone who actually believes this, combatting the standard indoctrination 
with a feminist “counter-indoctrination” seems only fair and sensible. 

The British philosopher Roger Scruton, aided by two colleagues at the 
Education Research Center in England, has pointed to several prominent 
features that distinguish indoctrination from normal education. 18 In a 
competent, well-designed course, students leam methods for weighing 
evidence and critical methods for evaluating arguments for soundness. 
They leam how to arrive at reasoned conclusions from the best evidence 
at hand. By contrast, in cases of indoctrination, the conclusions are as¬ 
sumed beforehand. Scruton calls this feature of indoctrination the “Fore¬ 
gone Conclusion.” According to Scruton, the adoption of a foregone 
conclusion is the most salient feature of indoctrination. In the case of 
gender feminism, the “foregone conclusion” is that American men strive 
to keep women subjugated. 

The “Hidden Unity” is a second salient feature. The foregone conclu¬ 
sions are part of a “unified set of beliefs” that form the worldview or 
political program the indoctrinator wishes to impart to the students. In 
the case of the gender feminist, the “Hidden Unity” is the sex/gender 
interpretation of society, the belief that modem women are an oppressed 
class living “under patriarchy.” 

Indoctrinators also operate within a “Closed System” that is immune 
to criticism. In the case of gender feminism, the closed system interprets 
all data as confirming the theory of patriarchal oppression. In a term made 
popular by Sir Karl Popper, gender feminism is nonfalsifiable, making it 
more like a religious undertaking than an intellectual one. If, for example, 
some women point out that they are not oppressed, they only confirm the 
existence of a system of oppression, for they “show” how the system 
dupes women by socializing them to believe they are free, thereby keeping 
them docile and cooperative. As Smith College transformationists Marilyn 
Schuster and Susan Van Dyne note, “The number of female professors 
who still see no inequity or omissions in the male-defined curriculum . . . 
serves to underscore dramatically how thoroughly women students may 
be deceived in believing these values are congruent with their interests.” 19 

The Feminist Classroom 


But what these approaches dramatically underscore is how “effectively” 
doctrinaire feminists deal with any phenomenon that poses the remotest 
threat to their tight little mental island. Gender feminism is a closed 
system. It chews up and digests all counterevidence, transmuting it into 
confirming evidence. Nothing and no one can refute the hypothesis of 
the sex/gender system for those who “see it everywhere.” 

Every society teaches and highlights its own political history, and 
America is no exception. Recognizing this, however, is very different from 
admitting that a “normal education” is basically an indoctrination in the 
politics of the status quo. In fact, objectivity remains the ideal toward 
which fair-minded teachers aspire. One way they approximate it is by 
presenting both sides of a controversial subject. Of course, we recognize 
and acknowledge that what and how he or she teaches is very often 
affected by the biases of the teacher. It remains true, nevertheless, that 
some teachers and the courses they teach are more biased than others. 

Consider how history is taught in totalitarian societies. Is a standard 
course in, say, ancient history, as typically taught by an American profes¬ 
sor, ideological in the same sense as a state-monitored history of the USSR 
taught in Stalin’s era? To hold that all teaching is ideological is to be blind 
to the cardinal distinction between education and indoctrination. If one 
believes that all knowledge is socially constructed to serve the powers 
that be, or, more specifically, if one holds that the science and culture we 
teach are basically a “patriarchal construction” designed to support a 
“male hegemony,” then one denies, as a matter of principle, any important 
difference between knowledge and ideology, between truth and dogma, 
between reality and propaganda, between objective teaching and incul¬ 
cating a set of beliefs. Many campus feminists do, in fact, reject these 
distinctions, and that is pedagogically and politically irresponsible and 
dangerous. For when the Big Brothers in an Orwellian world justify their 
cynical manipulation of the many by the tyrannical few, they, too, argue 
that reality is “socially constructed” by those in power and that indoctri¬ 
nation is all we can expect. 

In 1984, George Orwell’s tragic hero, Winston Smith, tries to defy the 
torturer, O’Brien, by holding fast to the belief in an objective reality. 
O’Brien reminds Winston Smith that he will be paying the price for that 
old-fashioned belief: “You believe that reality is something objective, ex¬ 
ternal, existing in its own right. . . . But I tell you, Winston, reality is not 
external. ... It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the 
eyes of the Party.” 20 


Who Stole Feminism? 

And Winston Smith is “persuaded” to change his mind. 

Those who believe that all teaching is political have labeled everything 
in advance, and they brook no counter arguments. Critical philosophers 
are well acquainted with this move: first it labels everything, then it rides 
roughshod over fundamental differences. That happens when armchair 
psychologists come up with the startling doctrine that all human activity 
is motivated by selfishness, or when armchair metaphysicians announce 
that whatever happens is bound to happen. The pronouncements of “psy¬ 
chological egoism” or “fatalistic metaphysics” have an air of being pro¬ 
found, but they destroy sound thinking by obliterating the distinctions 
that we must have if we are to think straight and see things clearly and 
distinctly. Label it as you will; there is, after all, a difference between 
caring and uncaring behavior, between callous, selfish disregard for oth¬ 
ers and considerateness and concern. There is a difference between events 
that happen accidentally and those that are planned. 

So, too, is there a difference between education and propaganda. The 
economist Thomas Sowell notes that the statement “All teaching is polit¬ 
ical” is trivially true in just the way the statement “Abraham Lincoln and 
Adolf Hitler were both imperfect human beings” is true. 21 

The blurring of vital distinctions is a mark of ideology or immaturity. 
We could be more tolerant of the pronouncement that in some sense all 
courses are political if campus feminists were prepared to acknowledge 
the vital difference between courses taught in a disinterested manner and 
those taught to promote an ideology. But that is precisely what so many 

This denial is so perverse that we are led to wonder what possible 
advantage the feminist ideologues could be getting from erasing the ob¬ 
vious and reasonable distinctions that most of us recognize and respect. 
On reflection, it is clear that their denial serves them very well indeed, by 
leaving them free to do what they please in their classrooms. Having 
denied the very possibility of objective learning, they are no longer bound 
by the need to adhere to traditional standards of a curriculum that seeks 
to convey an objective body of information. Putting “objectivity” in scare 
quotes, the feminists simply deny it as a possible pedagogical ideal. “Man 
is the measure of all things,” said old Protagoras—and the gender femi¬ 
nists agree that in the past Man was the measure. Now it is Woman’s 

This pedagogical philosophy licenses the feminist teacher to lay down 
“conclusions” or “rules” without feeling the need to argue for them. Con¬ 
sider the “ground rules” developed by the Center for Research on Women 
at Memphis State University and used at Rutgers University, the Univer- 

The Feminist Classroom 


sity of Minnesota, Penn State, and other schools around the country. The 
students are asked to accept them as a condition for taking the course: 

For the purposes of this course we agree to these rules: 

1. Acknowledge that oppression (i.e., racism, sexism, classism) exists. 

2. Acknowledge that one of the mechanisms of oppression (i.e., rac¬ 
ism, sexism, classism, heterosexism) is that we are all systematically 
taught misinformation about our own groups and about members 
of both dominant and subordinate groups. 

3. Assume that people (both the groups we study and the members of 
the class) always do the best they can. 

4. If members of the class wish to make comments that they do not 
want repeated outside the classroom, they can preface their remarks 
with a request and the class will agree not to repeat the remarks. 22 

First, it should be pointed out that these “rules” are very unusual for a 
college class. Teachers frequently have rules about absences or late papers, 
but here the rules demand that the students adopt particular beliefs , none 
of which is self-evident. Consider rule no. 1, which asserts that “oppres¬ 
sion exists.” Stated in this unqualified way, it cannot be denied. But since 
the student is meant to understand that oppression exists in the United 
States in the form of classism and sexism, the matter is not nearly so 
simple. Is it not at least arguable that one of the good features of American 
life is that here, in contrast to most other countries, an individual can rise 
in the socioeconomic scale despite his or her background? Is this not one 
reason why many outsiders are so eager to come here? Why then speak 
of class oppression? 

The coupling of sexism and racism is also problematic. Are they really 
that similar? Is sexism a national problem on a par with racism? The rule 
requires the student to accept that it is. Indeed, it is typical of the struc¬ 
ture of many women’s studies courses in putting a lot of loaded and 
controversial questions beyond the pale of discussion. And that is exactly 
what a college course should not be doing. 

Rule no. 2 says: “One of the mechanisms of oppression is that we are 
all systematically taught misinformation.” No doubt on occasion everyone 
is taught something that is not true. But are we “systematically” being 
given “misinformation”? When people were of the opinion that the world 
was flat, one might say they were “systematically” being taught that. But 
since everyone thought that was true, we shouldn’t speak of “misinfor¬ 
mation,” which connotes more than unintentional error. As the women’s 
studies scholars here use it, “systematically” connotes “deliberately” and 


Who Stole Feminism? 

with political purposes in mind. This alludes to the insidious workings of 
patriarchy, the “Hidden Unity” that keeps women in thrall to men. But it 
is certainly false that all of us are being deliberately (systematically) taught 

Rule no. 3 asks students to assume that groups always do the best they 
can. But why should they be required to make such a plainly false as¬ 
sumption? People, especially in groups, often could do a lot better than 
they do. Why assume the opposite? This rule, too, is characteristic of the 
“feel good” spirit of many women’s studies courses. Since every group is 
“doing its best,” it is churlish to criticize any given group. (Does this 
assumption extend to fraternities? And to the football team?) Rule no. 3 
serves another, unstated purpose: to preempt criticism that might disrupt 
the teacher’s agenda. 

Rule no. 4, which requires absolute confidentiality, is similarly objec¬ 
tionable. Classes should be free and open: anything said in the classroom 
should be repeatable outside. That an instructor invites or even allows 
her students to “speak out” about personal affairs is an unfailing sign that 
the course is unsubstantial and unscholarly. Moreover, the students who 
are encouraged to speak of painful incidents in their lives not only are 
being shortchanged scholastically, they are also at risk of being harmed 
by their disclosures. Even mental health professionals in clinical settings 
exercise great caution in eliciting traumatic disclosures. Any good school 
provides professional help to distressed students who need it. The ama¬ 
teur interventions of a teacher are intrusive and potentially harmful. 

But getting students to make painful personal disclosures is a special 
feature of feminist pedagogy. Kali Tal, a cultural studies instructor, re¬ 
cently shared the “Rules of Conduct” she used at George Mason Univer¬ 
sity with all the members of the women’s studies electronic bulletin 
board: 23 

Rape and incest are touchy subjects. Some class participants will be 
survivors of sexual abuse. Everyone will likely have moments in this 
class when they are angry or sad or perhaps frightened. It is impor¬ 
tant ... to make this classroom a safe place for students to share 
experiences, feelings, and intellectual ideas. I have therefore com¬ 
posed the following list of ground rules: 

1. There will be no interruption of any speaker. 

2. There will be no personal criticism of any kind directed by any 
member of the class to any other member of the class. 

3. Because some of the material discussed and viewed in this course 
contains extremely graphic and violent material, some students 

The Feminist Classroom 


may find it necessary to take an occasional “breather.” Students 
should feel free to stand up and walk out of class if they find 
themselves in need of a short break. It is permissible (and even 
encouraged) to ask a classmate to accompany you during such a 

As a final ground rule, Professor Tal tells students “this class is not a 
therapy session.” 

Inevitably, some students who come to class to get information, to 
leam useful skills, and to analyze issues more deeply feel cheated by such 
approaches. They may feel that the teacher is wasting their time. What 
does the feminist teacher, intent on “creating agents of social change,” 
think of her students when they react in this way? 

Elizabeth Fay, a feminist writing instructor at the University of Massa¬ 
chusetts, tells about a student she calls Minnie, a young working-class 
woman from Puerto Rico who lived with her divorced mother. Minnie sat 
sullenly through her classes, occasionally asking angry questions and 
being “confrontational” in conference sessions. 24 When the course was 
over, Minnie filed a complaint that she had not learned any writing skills 
in the course. As Professor Fay describes it: 

Minnie’s complaints rested on three main points: she was given no 
model essays to emulate; she was not given directive commentary 
that would have shown her how to rewrite; she was given no for¬ 
mulae to follow for each particular essay genre. In other words, she 
was denied constraint, she was asked to think on her own, and she 
was given the opportunity to give and receive peer feedback without 
an intruding master voice. 25 

Professor Fay’s analysis of Minnie’s grievance is complacently self-serv¬ 
ing. It “silences” Minnie by treating her as someone who prefers “con¬ 
straint” and a “master voice” to liberation. Professor Fay, who is not 
listening to Minnie, accuses Minnie of refusing to listen: “She made it 
clear that notions of multiple voices and visions, notions of gender poli¬ 
tics, notions of student empowerment did not touch her need for the 
proper style, the proper accent, the Doolittle makeover she had signed up 
for.” 26 

But Minnie hadn’t signed up for voices, visions, and gender politics; 
she had signed up for a course in English composition. She wanted her 
essays corrected because she wanted to leam to write better English. That 
is not an unreasonable expectation for a writing course. But to Professor 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Fay, Minnie had missed the real point of what the course in freshman 
composition was about: 

In freshman composition, what we try to give students is a con¬ 
sciousness about the social register and the range of voices they can 
and do adopt in order to get on with business. But it is their com¬ 
bination of demand and distrust (are you sure this is what I need? 
are you wasting my time and money?) that propels certain students 
into resistant postures. Minnie’s out-of-class hostility and in-class 
silent propriety bespeak a surface socialization that itself resists the 
induction process; she desires an academically gilded armor but not 
a change of self, not a becoming. 27 

Professor Fay, who is disappointed that Minnie has failed to avail 
herself of the chance to “become,” quite sincerely believes that Minnie’s 
recalcitrant attitude comes from having been “socialized” in ways that 
“propel” her into a resistant posture. It simply never occurs to Professor 
Fay that her own attitude toward Minnie is disrespectful and that it is she 
who has been taught by her feminist mentors to adopt a patronizing 
posture toward women like her. 28 

Michael Olenick, a journalism major at the University of Minnesota, 
reported his experiences with Women’s Studies 101 in an editorial in the 
school newspaper: “When I signed up for a women’s studies class I 
expected to learn about feminism, famous women, women’s history, and 
women’s culture. . . . Instead of finding new insights into the world of 
women, I found . . . bizarre theories about world conspiracies dedicated 
to repressing and exploiting women.” 29 

Heather Keena, a senior at the University of Minnesota, wrote a letter 
supporting Olenick’s complaint about the atmosphere in the classroom. 
“I was made to feel as though I was dependent and weak for preferring 
men to women as sexual partners, and to feel that my opinions were not 
only insignificant, but somehow twisted.” 30 Another class member, Kath¬ 
leen Bittinger, thought the professor guilty of stereotyping the male gen¬ 
der as chauvinistic: “I was also told that my religious beliefs and sexual 
orientation are not the correct ones.” 31 

I wondered what Professor Albrecht, who taught the course, thought 
of the controversy and phoned her. She was warm and personable, and 
her concern was undeniable. In response to the charges that her course 
was one-sided, she pointed out that students get their fill of standard 
viewpoints from “the mainstream media.” It was her job to give them a 
deeper truth: “If scholarship isn’t about improving people’s lives, then 

The Feminist Classroom 


what is it about?” Ms. Albrecht was clearly committed to her self-imposed 
task of telling students how they were being exploited within a patriar¬ 
chal, classist, racist society. It was equally clear that she felt fully justified 
in not giving the other side a hearing. I have come across many devoted 
teachers who, like Professor Albrecht, refuse to listen to “voices” that 
could in any way affect their determination to produce students who are 
“agents of social change.” Ms. Albrecht sent me her syllabus, which was 
unabashedly ideological: it even included a copy of the Rutgers “ground 

Students who complain about feminist pedagogy get little sympathy 
from the administration. Lynne Munson, a recent graduate of Northwest¬ 
ern, found the “feminist perspective” everywhere on her campus: “I took 
a classics course, and we were encouraged to take part in a feminist 
demonstration, ‘Take Back the Night,’ out of solidarity with the women 
of Sparta. In an art history class the professor attacked Manet’s Olympia 
for its similarities to pornographic centerfolds.” 

Ms. Munson was especially critical of a freshman seminar called “The 
Menstrual Cycle: Fact or Fiction,” in which students discussed their “rag¬ 
ing hormonal imbalances.” In the op-ed column of her school newspaper, 
Munson wrote that a course of this kind did not contribute much to a 
liberal arts education. She found the class silly and complained to the 
dean that the curriculum was becoming faddish and losing academic 

The dean, Stephen Fisher, replied that the course was “a legitimate 
area of inquiry.” He told me that Ms. Munson seemed to be distressed by 
women’s studies and to be seeking ways to undermine it. I asked him 
whether he didn’t think the menstrual cycle seemed an odd subject for a 
freshman seminar; wouldn’t such a course be more appropriate in a 
medical school? Did he not share some of the current concerns that 
today’s undergraduates have serious gaps in their knowledge of history, 
science, and literature and need a firm grounding in the “basics”? The 
dean replied that, unlike the University of Chicago, Northwestern had 
rejected the core curriculum in favor of general studies and that courses 
like the seminar on the menstrual cycle were appropriate to Northwest¬ 
ern’s more pluralistic curriculum. When I pointed out that no one was 
giving seminars on prostate function or nocturnal emissions and other 
intimate male topics about which there is an equal amount of ignorance, 
he seemed amused, and we left it at that. 

Menstruation is a favorite theme in women’s studies courses. The Uni- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

versity of Minnesota offers a course on “Blood Symbolism in Cross-Cul¬ 
tural Perspective.” Topics to be covered include “blood and sexual fluids” 
and “menstruation and blood letting.” At Vassar College they had a 
“bleed-in.” The flier announcing this event said: “Are you down on men¬ 
struation? The Women’s Center warmly welcomes you to the first all¬ 
campus bleed in October 16, 1993, 8:00 p.m. in the Women’s Center.” 32 

In a widely used textbook called Feminism and Values, the student will 
read Carol P. Christ on the importance of menstrual fluids in the new 
feminist goddess rituals. Ms. Christ, a former visiting lecturer at the Har¬ 
vard Divinity School and Pomona College, tells students of “the joyful 
affirmation of the female body and its cycles” in “Goddess-centered ritu¬ 
als” at the summer solstice: “From hidden dirty secret to symbol of the 
life power of the Goddess, women’s blood has come full circle.” 33 

If women’s blood has come full circle, the public at large has yet to 
hear of it. From Finland comes this e-mail request by a feminist scholar 
who is mentoring a student’s research in this area: 

I have a student working on an MA thesis in sociology on different 
conceptions of menstruation in Finland. She has been going through 
medical literature. ... All this material has shown her a dominant 
discourse based on traditional medical conceptions. ... In order to 
have different voices, she has been interviewing women. . . . Her 
problem is that a) most women don’t very much like to talk about 
menstruation, b) most have negative feelings about it. . . Does any¬ 
body have any suggestions on how to have also positive feelings 
expressed? 34 

Objective researchers do not usually ask for help in getting data more 
in keeping with results they would view as “positive.” On the other hand, 
gender feminists are convinced that prevailing attitudes toward menstrua¬ 
tion are fixed by a dominant (male) discourse. So the researcher tends to 
discount the opinions of women (unfortunately a majority) whom they 
regard as giving expression to negative male attitudes, and they look for 
the countervailing “authentic” women’s voices. 

One such voice was sounded by feminist theorist Joan Straumanis 
Cater dean of Faculty at Rollins College). She concluded an address at a 
women’s study conference entitled “The Structure of Knowledge: A Fem¬ 
inist Perspective”: “It is very consciousness-raising to have your period 
during a conference like this one. ... I don’t know of any other confer¬ 
ence where the speaker got up and said that she had her period. . . . For 
that and other reasons, women’s studies will never die”! 35 

The Feminist Classroom 


Lee Edelman is a popular professor of English literature at Tufts Uni¬ 
versity. His course “Hitchcock: Cinema, Gender, Ideology” (English 91) 
caught my attention, so I called and asked if I might sit in on one of his 

I attended Professor Edelman’s class on the day he discussed gender 
roles in Hitchcock’s The Thirty-Nine Steps. Edelman, a thirtysomething 
associate professor, was analyzing the romance between Robert Donat 
and Madeleine Carroll. As he lectured he showed clips from the film, 
commenting all the while about the film’s unstated sexual politics. The 
lecture was thematically one-dimensional, but interesting and engaging. 

At the beginning of the film, Robert Donat, fleeing the authorities, 
enters a railway compartment and forcibly kisses Madeleine Carroll to 
avoid being spotted. Edelman asked, “What does it mean to think about 
romance always in terms of crime and violence?” He told the class that 
love is a social construct, first and foremost a political weapon: “How do 
masters of cinema get people to find war attractive? By suggesting Nazis 
want to hurt Mrs. Miniver. You show women as objects that men must 
protect. We bomb Hiroshima for Rita Hayworth.” 

Professor Edelman asked the class about a minor character: “How does 
Mr. Memory represent patriarchal knowledge?” No one volunteered an 
answer. One young man hesitantly pointed out that Carroll seems to 
enjoy Donat’s kiss, since, after all, she closes her eyes and drops her 
glasses. From the back of the classroom a young woman condemned the 
male student along with Hitchcock. Both, she said, promote the idea that 
women enjoy assaults. The discussion became more animated. Edelman 
observed that the happy ending depends on “buying into the ideology of 
romantic love.” Warming to this theme, another young woman said, “The 
moment the heroine falls in love, she ceases to have a distinct identity.” 
Edelman agreed: “She wears a beatific smile, the smile of the fulfilled 
heterosexual relationship.” The topic to be explored the following week: 
love and marriage in the conventional union. Assignment: Rebecca. 

Later I spoke at length with Professor Edelman. His background is in 
literary deconstruction, a style of criticism he deploys to read every “text” 
(be it a novel, film, song, or TV commercial) as an expression, if not a 
weapon, of the oppressor culture. He believes the purpose of teaching is 
to challenge the culture by debunking (“deconstructing”) its “texts.” He 
believes good teaching is adversarial. 

When 1 asked him if he felt he had an obligation to give arguments for 
the other side, Edelman made Professor Albrecht’s point: he has the 


Who Stole Feminism? 

students for only a precious few hours a week; the dominant culture has 
them the rest of the time. It may be the only time in their lives they are 
exposed to iconoclastic thinking about their culture. 

I had enjoyed the class and would not have minded hearing him on 
Rebecca. Edelman was fun to listen to, even when he kept insisting the 
students must leam to see how sex bias is inscribed in every cultural 
artifact, every work of art, every novel, every movie. The students were 
learning a lot about how Hitchcock exploited sexual themes, but from 
where I sat there was a lot they were not learning, including why Hitch¬ 
cock is considered a great filmmaker. They were not learning about his 
mastery in building suspense. They were not told, nor could they explain, 
why The Thirty-Nine Steps had set a new style for cinematic dialogue. The 
Tufts students were being taught to “see through” Hitchcock’s films before 
they had learned to look at them and before they knew much about why 
they should be studying them in the first place. Nothing the students said 
indicated they had learned much about Hitchcock or his work. By the 
time Edelman got through “unmasking” the sexism of The Thirty-Nine 
Steps, the students’ disdain for it would have left them with little incentive 
to regard Hitchcock as a great filmmaker. They were learning what Hitch¬ 
cock was “really” up to, and that, apparently, was what mattered. 

These omissions are characteristic of much teaching that goes on in the 
contemporary classroom. Today’s students are culturally undernourished. 
The college English class is the one opportunity for students to be ex¬ 
posed to great poetry, short stories, novels, and theater. If they do not 
leam to respect and enjoy good literature in college, they probably never 

The feminist classroom strongly affects many an impressionable stu¬ 
dent. The effect on the teacher may also be dramatic, especially if she is a 
neophyte. Professor Dixie King tells how a course she was teaching trans¬ 
formed her: “In teaching my first women’s studies course many years ago, 
I found myself changing as I talked; I discovered the extent to which I 
had been in complicity with the system, male-trained into the system; I 
deconstructed myself and reconstructed myself through dialogue in that 
class.” 36 

In the course of inquiries into academic feminism I kept coming across 
students who marveled at how much they had been changed by their new 
perspective on the social reality. Students who see the workings of the 
sex/gender system “everywhere” are turning up in nonfeminist classrooms 

The Feminist Classroom 


ready to challenge the “phallocentric reasoning” of their instructors. Some 
faculty consider such students virtually unteachable. One Midwestern 
English professor told me: “It is very difficult to teach students who have 
been trained to take the ‘feminist perspective.’ They have this steely look 
in their eyes. They distrust everything you say. For them reason itself is 
patriarchal, linear, and oppressive. You cannot argue with them. Every¬ 
thing is grist for their mill.” 

Kim Paffenroth, a former divinity student at Harvard, is one of several 
students who is disturbed at the extent to which the radical feminist 
perspective dominates his classes. One of his professors was sharply in¬ 
terrupted, midsentence, by an angry T.A. who “corrected” him because 
he had referred to God as “he.” “I was quite shocked at the rudeness of 
her interruption, but even more aghast as I saw how much power she 
could wield with such petty rudeness when the professor meekly cor¬ 
rected himself and apologized.” 

College campuses used to be thought of as enclaves of high spirits and 
irreverence. Academic feminism has had a great deal to do with drastically 
changing that image. The political scientist Abigail Themstrom describes 
American colleges as islands of intolerance in a sea of freedom. I visited 
one such island in the fall of 1989. 

The College of Wooster in Ohio has a strong feminist presence. Op¬ 
position to feminist ideology is mainly surreptitious. One assistant profes¬ 
sor, who requests anonymity, told me that it is “suicidal” to criticize 
campus feminists in any way. “They want people to be scared. Then you 
keep quiet and they don’t have to deal with you.” He described the 
atmosphere as “McCarthyist.” Another silent critic excused his timidity 
on social grounds. Being perceived as confrontational in a small town is 
costly. “We have to live with these people.” Yet another professor admit¬ 
ted his despair over the radical feminist encroachment at Wooster but 
said that to create a stir might be harmful to enrollments. 

Four Wooster seniors agreed to talk to me about their experience in 
the feminist classroom. Peter Stratton, who took Women’s Studies 110, 
was surprised on the first day of class to hear the professor declare the 
class a “liberated zone” where “suppressed” women would be free to 
speak out on any subject.” Mr. Stratton says that at first he was very 

But over and over again we heard how awful men are. That there is 

no point in caring for males, that romantic involvement is futile. Of 

course, there are some bad men in society, but you also have to look 


Who Stole Feminism? 

at the good ones. When I first arrived at the College of Wooster, I 
accepted everything I was told. Now some of my friends and I will 
use words like “freshman” among ourselves as a sign of resistance. 

Another senior, Michael Millican, believes the College of Wooster has 
“officially suspended the Bill of Rights.” John Cassais says that few stu¬ 
dents dare to question the teacher’s viewpoint. “The risks are too great.” 
He believes students are being indoctrinated: “In the first-year seminar 
(not freshman seminar) they now concentrate exclusively on race and 
gender issues. That program resembles a university program a lot less 
than it does a reeducation camp.” 

The students read Racism and Sexism, a strongly ideological text edited 
by Paula Rothenberg (mentioned previously as head of the New Jersey 
Project and moderator at the Parsippany conference). Defenders of this 
book misdescribe it as a collection of “anti-discrimination court cases.” 37 
In fact, less than 20 percent of it deals with cases. The bulk of the book 
is a miscellany of mostly bad poetry and tendentious, tedious articles, full 
of graceless jargon, all written from a gender feminist perspective. It seems 
that Rothenberg saw no need to provide a hearing for other views. Nor, 
since relatively few selections have literary or stylistic merit, did she 
apparently feel responsible for offering the students a text that would 
teach them how to write well. At Wooster, however, Racism and Sexism 
was well suited to the purposes of the feminist activists and their admin¬ 
istrative allies. 

In 1990, the college invited a roster of speakers to campus to reinforce 
the message in Ms. Rothenberg’s text: the speakers included Ms. Rothen¬ 
berg, Angela Davis, Ronald Takaki, Derrick Bell, and a lone “conserva¬ 
tive,” former New York mayor Ed Koch. Koch was duly hissed and booed 
by the “well-trained” students. 

The intolerance at Wooster for those who are critical of the gender 
feminist faith makes the faculty very circumspect about voicing criticism, 
and this has rendered them virtually unable to oppose any feminist pro¬ 
gram they think unworthy of support. “I am getting old and tired, and I 
do not want to get fired,” said one professor: 

What you have here are a lot of students and faculty who are very 
skeptical, but they are afraid to voice their reservations. On the other 
hand, women’s studies faculty are well organized and they have very 
effective strategies. First they co-ordinate with other departments 
and offer a large group of courses, they bloc vote and get a number 
of themselves on educational policy committees. It’s not hard these 

The Feminist Classroom 


days to get a powerful administrator behind you. For them it is a 
way to make a name for themselves in college administration. They 
can say they initiated a new women’s program. 

Many students resent women’s studies. They want less ideology and 
more objective content in their courses. One would think that the college 
administrations would be sympathetic to their complaints. But adminis¬ 
trations have changed a lot in the last two decades. We now find deans 
and college presidents admonishing students not to be taken in by claims 
of objectivity and the allegedly disinterested scholarship of pedagogues 
who are fixed in the earlier phases of an untransformed curriculum. The 
more enlightened administrators preach the virtues of a new pedagogy 
that impugns all objectivity, even that of science. In a convocation ad¬ 
dress, Donald Harward, then vice president of academic affairs at the 
College of Wooster, said, “A major intellectual revolution has occurred. 
Within the last two decades the . . . effort ‘to objectify’ fields of inquiry 
has been called into question by a challenge to the objectivity of science 
—the preeminent prototype.” 38 

Invoking the authority of the feminist epistemologist Sandra Harding, 
among others, Dr. Harward informed the students that “there is no objec¬ 
tivity, even in science.” He then confided that “the new view of science, 
and thereby the new view of any field of intellectual inquiry, is only a 
whisker from irrationality and total skepticism. But fine lines are impor¬ 
tant.” By the end of his address, the students were ready for the uplifting 
message that “learning and teaching have less to do with truth, reality, 
and objectivity than we had assumed.” 

Transformationists cannot always rely on a sympathetic faculty, but 
they can generally count on administrative support in furthering their 
projects. Schuster and Van Dyne, the Smith College transformation team, 
report that “informed administrators” are more likely than professors to 
acknowledge the need for curricular transformation. 39 At Wooster College 
it was Harward who initiated the policy of having students evaluate their 
teachers on their sensitivity to gender issues. He has since gone on to 
become president of Bates College in Maine. 

Students who have been successfully trained in the feminist classroom 
to “become agents of change” may embarrass their mentors by practicing 
what they have learned right on the campus. At Simon’s Rock of Bard 
College in Barrington, Massachusetts, twenty students who were not sat¬ 
isfied that the formal procedures of the university adequately protected 


Who Stole Feminism? 

students from sexual harassment formed “defense guard” groups to take 
matters into their own hands. “Defense guarding” consists of surrounding 
a targeted professor in an out-of-the-way place, charging him with sexual 
harassment, and then chanting, in unison, over and over again: “This will 
not be tolerated. This has got to stop.” 40 

One of the participating students told me that if her group hears of 
behavior that sounds sexist or harassing, they will directly and repeatedly 
confront the perpetrator. “Defense guarding is a very effective means of 
convincing someone that what they are doing is wrong.” 1 asked whether 
defense guarding was not unfairly intimidating to the accused and was 
told, “Why would they be intimidated unless they are guilty? If they have 
done nothing, they would not be intimidated.” 

One foreign professor subjected to this treatment became physically ill. 
The administration finally acted by putting sixteen “defense guards” 
under temporary suspension. Women’s studies professor Patricia Sharp 
disclaimed all responsibility for the behavior of the defense guards; she 
insisted their attitude has nothing to do with feminism. Yet she expressed 
concern that nearly half of the eighteen students in her feminist theory 
class were members of the defense guard. 

That the students’ behavior should disconcert even the feminist teach¬ 
ers is understandable. It is equally understandable that the students feel 
betrayed. One member of the defense guard who was in Professor Sharp’s 
class told me that in women’s studies courses women are encouraged to 
empower themselves, but “when we put it into practice in a direct and 
effective way we are suspended.” 

Simon’s Rock is part of Bard College. When asked about the tactics of 
the defense guards, Bard president Leon Botstein said, “The best face to 
put on it is that these kids do not possess a sufficient historical memory 
to understand that such behavior is extremely reminiscent of fascism, of 
brown shirts; it is a classic group intimidation and public humiliation 
which is associated with the thirties, and then finally with the Red 
Guards.” 41 

Pennsylvania State College has an alternative newspaper called the 
Lionhearted that routinely pokes fun at campus political correctness. In its 
April 12, 1993, issue, it satirized an op-ed piece by a radical feminist 
student, Amanda Martin, that appeared in the college newspaper. Ms. 
Martin had recently attended the Penn State antirape march, which she 
called a march of “250 female warriors.” She compared patriarchy to a 
bloodthirsty “monster” that is devouring all women. To those who would 
criticize her, she issued a warning: “I’ll kick your ass.” 42 

Ms. Martin’s article invited parody, and the Lionhearted obliged by 

The Feminist Classroom 


criticizing her harangue and irreverently printing a cartoon image of her 
in a blue bikini. The campus feminist activists reacted by seizing and 
destroying all six thousand copies of the Lionhearted. Several hundred 
were burned in a bonfire, late at night, outside the office of Ben Novak, a 
member of the Penn State board of trustees who serves as an advisor to 
the paper. 

Mike Abrams, the editor of the Penn State school newspaper, the Daily 
Collegian, justified the burning of newspapers: “The individual(s) who 
burned copies of the Lionhearted were demonstrating the same freedom 
of expression that allowed the newspaper to print its views.” 43 Donna 
Hughes, a Penn State women’s studies professor, also saw nothing wrong 
with burning newspapers, given the circumstances. After all, the cartoon 
parody was a form of harassment. “I think it was an act of protest; 
considering the very personal, defaming attack on [Amanda Martin] in a 
full-page cartoon.” 44 

It is difficult to estimate the proportion of students who become com¬ 
mitted gender feminists. It is surely a minority. Even when the conversion 
seems to go deep it may be short-lived. But those who remain steadfast 
are tough and formidable. On the other hand, some of the “defectors” are 
just as formidable. 

Heather Hart, a recent graduate of Brandeis University, tells of her 
disenchantment with academic feminism: 

At Brandeis I discovered feminism. And I instantly became a con¬ 
vert. And I did well, writing brilliant papers in my Myths of Patriar¬ 
chy humanities class, in which I likened my fate as a woman to 
other victims throughout the ages. I joined the women’s coalition, 
preached to anyone who would listen, and even came close to cut¬ 
ting men out of my life entirely. 

Ms. Hart, however, came from Montreal, where lipstick is in fashion, and 
she refused to give it up: “They condemned me from the get-go. They 
talked about feeling excluded from the male-dominated, patriarchal soci¬ 
ety, and yet they were quick to dismiss me as a boy-toy just because I 
like the concept of decoration. ... 1 was different and, therefore, a threat 
to the neat, closed, secret, homogeneous community.” 

Ms. Hart says that the near-ostracism she suffered kept her from enjoy¬ 
ing the “strengths” that solidarity could have offered her; nevertheless, 
she accepted being disapproved of because she “did not wish to alienate” 
herself from those she felt allied to. The inevitable break came when Eddie 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Murphy came to Brandeis to give a concert: “I was intent on going . . . 
yet at a meeting with my fellow feminists I was informed that we were 
boycotting the show as Murphy was a homophobic, misogynistic racist.” 

Ms. Hart crossed the picket line and had the revelation that in many 
ways her sisters in women’s studies and the women’s center were 
“frighteningly reminiscent” of the forces “they claimed to be fighting all 
those years.” 

Some who later defected look back with resentment on the feminists 
who held them in thrall. Annie Ballad, a 1988 graduate of Harvard, felt 
her private life to be intolerably incorrect, being in conflict with what she 
was learning in the feminist classroom. She had been persuaded that 
heterosexual lovemaking was basically a violation: “While taking women’s 
studies (at Harvard) with a separatist teaching fellow there, I nearly had a 
nervous breakdown because I thought my boyfriend of five years was 
raping me every time he penetrated me.” She set out to “deprogram” 
herself, using a technique of linguistic reversal that is known to be effec¬ 
tive. Ms. Ballad had been trained to certain locutions, avoiding those that 
gender feminists deem condescending to women. She began to force 
herself to be “incorrect”; “I insisted on calling women ‘girls,’ ‘chicks,’ and 
‘babes.’ ” After a short while she felt free to enjoy her sexually incorrect 

Irreverence is both an antidote and an immunizer. At strongly feminist 
Vassar College, two juniors, Regina Peters and Jennifer Lewis, founded 
the “Future Housewives of America.” At first the group took themselves 
in a tongue-in-cheek spirit. One of their earliest projects (foiled at the last 
minute) was to sneak into the messy women’s center late at night and 
clean it up, leaving a note signed “Compliments of the Future Housewives 
of America.” Student groups are routinely given modest funds for running 
expenses: as a women’s group, Future Housewives was entitled to apply 
for funds through the Feminist Alliance. Peters and Lewis showed up at 
an Alliance meeting and announced the formation of their group. They 
told about their first two planned activities: to publish their own cook¬ 
book and to host a Tupperware party. “I have never seen anything like 
it,” said Peters later. “Fifty stunned women gaping in disbelief.” They 
were not funded and have since disbanded. 

Campus feminists have made the American campus a less happy place, 
having successfully browbeaten a once outspoken and free faculty. One 
of the saddest things about their influence is their effect on pedagogy 

The Feminist Classroom 


outside their own classrooms. They have raised a generation of student 
watchdogs ever on the lookout for sexist bias in all its insidious manifes¬ 
tations. Students are careful rather than carefree. Humor is guarded. Many 
teachers now practice a kind of defensive pedagogy. 

In December 1989 I received a phone call from a man who told me he 
was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. He asked me to 
look into some “frightening” things campus feminists were up to. He 
mentioned the Scandinavian studies department. He told me he did not 
want to give me his name because he felt he would be hurt: “They are 
powerful, they are organized, and they are vindictive.” 

The University of Minnesota is heavily “colonized.” In addition to its 
Women’s Studies department, it has a Center for Advanced Feminist 
Studies, the Center for Women in International Development, a Women’s 
Center, a Young Women’s Association, the Center for Continuing Edu¬ 
cation for Women, and the Humphrey Center on Women and Public 
Policy. The feminist journal Signs is housed there, and the radical feminist 
review Hurricane Alice is associated with the English department. There 
is a Sexual Violence Program, as well as a Commission on Women. 

After a few phone calls I found some faculty members who would 
speak up about the “campus feminists,” provided anonymity was prom¬ 
ised. One professor of social science told me: 

We have a hardened and embittered core of radical feminists. These 
women have been victorious in court: they have the ear of several 
powerful regents and administrators. They call the shots. Every¬ 
where you look there are feminist faculty members concerned to 
divest departments of the white male viewpoint. If you question 
this, you are labeled a sexist. It is a nightmare. At faculty meetings 
we have learned to speak in code: you say things that alert other 
faculty members that you do not agree with the radical feminists, 
but you say nothing that could bring a charge of gender insensitiv¬ 
ity. People are out for control and power. I did not fully understand 
what was happening until I read Nien Cheng’s Life and Death in 

Professor Norman Fruman, a distinguished scholar in the English de¬ 
partment, was outspoken: 

If you resist feminists you are liable to the charge of sexism. You 
then may be socially or professionally isolated. With the rise of 
poststructuralism, Derrida, Foucault, Althusser, you have the basis 


Who Stole Feminism? 

for a Stalinist position. Many faculty are now teaching students that 
there is no objectivity. All is subjective. This is their rallying cry. All 
of the literary masterpieces, including the very notion of aesthetic 
quality, are said to be a means of patriarchal control. 

I then called Professor Lois Erickson, a feminist activist. She explained 
why the two men I had spoken to would of course be “hostile and 

It is a new era at the University of Minnesota. Our shared reality has 
been through a masculine lens. I spent a sabbatical at Harvard work¬ 
ing with Carol Gilligan where I learned to honor the inner feminine 
voice. Until we can balance the feminine and the masculine, peace 
is not possible. For this we need a strong feminist studies depart¬ 
ment. . . . We have at least three hundred women on campus em¬ 
powered by a favorable court ruling. This gives us a strong collective 
voice. Some men and women are threatened because they fear their 
feminine side. 

Having heard “both sides” of the feminist question at Minnesota, I felt 
ready to tackle the mystery of the Scandinavian studies department. It 
turned out not to be a mystery at all—only a disturbing example of 
extreme feminist vigilance. 

On April 12, 1989, four female graduate students filed sexual harass¬ 
ment charges against all six tenured members of the Scandinavian studies 
department (five men and one woman). The professors were called to 
Dean Fred Lukerman’s office, notified of the charges and, according to 
the accused, told they’d better get themselves lawyers. 

In a letter sent to Professor William Mischler of Scandinavian studies, 
Ms. Patricia Mullen, the university officer for sexual harassment, informed 
Mischler that he had been accused of sexual harassment and would be 
reported to the provost unless he responded within ten days. Similar 
letters were sent to the other five professors. Mischler’s letters contained 
no specific facts that could be remotely considered to describe sexual 
harassment. When Mischler made further inquiries, he discovered he had 
been accused of giving a narrow and “patriarchal” interpretation of Isaak 
Dinesen’s work, of not having read a novel a student deemed important, 
and of having greeted a student in a less than friendly manner. Two of 
Mischler’s colleagues were accused of harassing the plaintiffs by not hav¬ 
ing given them higher grades. 

The plaintiffs had drawn up a list of punitive demands, among them: 

The Feminist Classroom 


1. the denial of merit pay for a period of not less than five years; 

2. monthly sexual harassment workshops for all Scandinavian core 
faculty for at least twelve months; and 

3. annual sexual harassment workshops for all Scandinavian core fac¬ 
ulty, adjunct faculty, visiting faculty, graduate assistants, reader- 
graders, and graduate students. 

Lacking any support from the administration whatsoever, the profes¬ 
sors were forced to seek legal counsel. On October 13, six months later, 
all charges against four of the accused were dropped. No explanation was 
offered. A few months later, the charges against the remaining two were 
dropped, again without explanation. All of them are still shaken from 
what they describe as a Kafkaesque ordeal. “When I saw the charges,” 
says Professor Allen Simpson, “I panicked. It’s the most terrifying 
thing . . . they want me fired. It cost me two thousand dollars to have my 
response drafted. I can’t afford justice.” 

Professor Mischler requested that the contents of the complaints be 
made public to the Minnesota community. But, according to the Minne¬ 
sota Daily, Patricia Mullen opposed disclosure on the grounds that “it 
would dampen people from coming forward.” 45 

My efforts to reach someone who could give me the administration’s 
side of the story were not successful. Ms. Mullen declined to speak with 
me. Fred Lukerman, who was dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the 
time, also proved to be inaccessible. I finally did talk to a dean who 
assured me he was very supportive of feminist causes on campus, but that 
he believed the Scandinavian studies affair was indeed a “witch hunt.” 
“But please do not use my name,” he implored. 

More recently, at the University of New Hampshire, Professor Donald 
Silva was trying to dramatize the need for focus in writing essays. Unfor¬ 
tunately for him, he used sexual images to make his point: “Focus [in 
writing] is like sex. You seek a target. You zero in on your subject. You 
move from side to side. You close in on the subject. You bracket the 
subject and center on it. Focus connects experience and language. You 
and the subject become one.” 46 

During another lecture he graphically illustrated the way some similes 
work, saying, “Belly dancing is like Jell-0 on a plate, with a vibrator 

The vast majority of his large lecture class found these remarks innoc¬ 
uous. Six female students filed formal harassment charges—claiming his 


Who Stole Feminism? 

words had demeaned women and created a hostile and intimidating en¬ 
vironment. sharpp —the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Pro¬ 
gram on the New Hampshire campus—took up their cause. Professor 
Silva was found guilty of having used “two sexually explicit examples” 
that “a reasonable female student would find . . . offensive, intimidating, 
and contributing to a hostile environment.” He was ordered to apologize 
in writing for having created a “hostile and offensive academic environ¬ 
ment.” He was fined two thousand dollars and formally reprimanded. He 
is now required to attend counseling sessions by a therapist approved by 
the university, and to report on his progress in therapy to his program 
director at the university. Silva has courageously refused to comply—and 
has been suspended from teaching without pay. The American Associa¬ 
tion of University Professors wrote a letter warning the university that any 
sanctions taken against Silva were a threat to academic freedom. At a 
meeting of more than sixty retired University of New Hampshire profes¬ 
sors, they reviewed the case and voted unanimously to condemn the 
university’s actions. But so far sharpp and the University of New Hamp¬ 
shire have prevailed. Silva’s attempt to get his side of the story heard is 
costing him thousands in legal fees, and it may cost him his career. 

One expects faculty to protest encroachments on their traditional free¬ 
doms and prerogatives. One would expect them to be outraged at the 
“witch hunts” (and to express their outrage before they retire). But what 
sense of outrage there is comes, instead, from the gender feminists who, 
true to their self-image as “victims,” urge gender feminists in the univer¬ 
sities to be permanently alert for any signs of masculinist attempts to 
restore the status quo. Schuster and Van Dyne have charts and graphs 
outlining strategies for preparedness. 47 The Ford-funded National Council 
for Research on Women is now raising money for what it calls a “rapid 
response fund.” As it explains in a fundraising letter dated December 8, 
1993, the fund will enable it to act quickly to combat adverse publicity 
for such things as “feminist curriculum reforms.” 

Fears of resistance and backlash motivate preemptive strikes at critics 
and potential critics. The Modem Language Association Committee on 
the Status of Women has recently proposed “antifeminist harassment” 
and “intellectual harassment” as new and official categories of victimiza¬ 
tion. Examples of intellectual harassment include: 

• easy dismissal of feminist writers, journals, and presses 

• automatic deprecation of feminist work as “narrow,” “partisan,” and 
“lacking in rigor” 

• malicious humor directed against feminists 48 

The Feminist Classroom 


Toni McNaron, professor of English at the University of Minnesota, 
expresses the confidence of many when she predicts in the Women’s 
Review of Books that gender feminist academics will transform the “aca¬ 
demic establishment” in the nineties. 49 She makes the customary compar¬ 
ison between recent feminist theory and the scientific breakthrough made 
by Copernicus. But her exultant mood is laced with gloom. She reminds 
us that “proponents of Copemican theory were drummed out of their 
universities or, in extreme cases, excommunicated, jailed, and even 
killed.” Acknowledging that contemporary feminists are not likely to suf¬ 
fer the more extreme retributions, she nevertheless warns of impending 
attacks. She exhorts feminist academics to “stand and resist wherever 
possible the onslaughts” of those who find fault with the feminist agenda. 
Professor McNaron’s remarks were brought to my attention because she 
mentions me as one of the persecutors of the new Copernicans. 

By now, feminists have a well-deserved reputation for being good at 
dishing it out but completely unable to take it. Many are known to deal 
with opponents by ad hominem or ad feminam counterattacks: accusa¬ 
tions of misogyny, racism, homophobia, or opposition to diversity or 
inclusiveness. Some would-be critics fear for their very jobs. In these 
circumstances a critic may find himself suddenly alone. Others, watching, 
learn to keep a low profile. It is now quite clear that a self-protecting 
American faculty has been seriously derelict in its duty to defend the 
liberal traditions of the American academy. 

Students are quick to learn that open criticism of the feminist class¬ 
room will not win them support from teachers who privately agree with 
them. The lesson they learn from the cravenness of their teachers is never 
lost on them: keep clear of controversy. Conformity is safest: practice it. 
That is a terrible lesson to convey to one’s students and the antithesis of 
what the college experience should be. 

In the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the boy at the parade who 
dared to declare that the emperor had nothing on was immediately joined 
by his elders, who were grateful that someone had given voice to that 
innocent and obvious truth. Sadly, the story is not true to life. In real life 
the boy is more likely to be shunted aside by parading functionaries for 
failing to perceive the emperor’s finery. In real life, the spectators do not 
take the boy’s side. At Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan, Wooster, New 
Hampshire, Harvard, and on campuses across the country, the gender 
feminists are unchallenged because the faculties have so far found it 
politic to look the other way. 

Chapter 6 

A Bureaucracy of 
One’s Own 

If there is one word that sums up everything that has gone 
wrong since the war , it's “workshop.” 

—Attributed to Kingsley Amis 

That the gender feminist perspective is comparable to a Copemican 
revolution is open to question. A revolution has undoubtedly taken place, 
but it is more a bureaucratic than an intellectual one. 

In 1982 Peggy McIntosh, the associate director of the Wellesley College 
Center for Research on Women, gave a prescient and influential keynote 
address to an audience of feminist scholars in Geneva, Indiana: 

I think it is not so important for us to get women’s bodies in high 
places, because that doesn’t necessarily help at all in social change. 
But to promote women who carry a new consciousness of how the 
mountain strongholds of white men need valley values—this will 
change society. . . . Such persons placed high up in existing power 
structures can really make a difference. 1 

Ms. McIntosh’s beguiling metaphors are matched by her unerring un¬ 
derstanding of how to gain control of bureaucracies, a talent that has 
helped to make her one of the most influential and effective leaders 
among academic transformationists. The gender feminists that Dr. Me- 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


Intosh addressed took her advice to heart. So did many others. Feminist 
academics have worked hard and successfully to get people “who carry a 
new consciousness” into administrative positions at every academic level. 
These now do their best to ensure that new appointments are not out of 
line. To criticize feminist ideology is now hazardous in the extreme, and 
even to have a “clean” record is no longer sufficient. Aspirants to univer¬ 
sity presidencies, deanships, program directorships, and other key posts 
are aware that they will probably have to show a record of demonstrated 
sympathy with gender feminist doctrines and policies. The same is rapidly 
becoming true for faculty appointments. 

The Association of American Colleges (AAC), itself one of the “power 
structures” that have been colonized by women of the right conscious¬ 
ness, disseminates a widely used questionnaire entitled “It’s All in What 
You Ask: Questions for Search Committees to Use.” Prospective candi¬ 
dates for faculty or administrative positions are asked such questions as 

• How have you demonstrated your commitment to women’s issues in 
your current position? [Lead question] 

• What is your relationship to the women’s center? 

• How do you incorporate new scholarship on women into undergrad¬ 
uate coursework? Into your research? Into graduate coursework? 
With your graduate students? How do you help your colleagues do 

• How do you deal with backlash and denial? 

The type of screening promoted by the AAC proved effective at the 
University of Maryland in its last presidential search. Speaking at the 
(self-styled) “historic” forum entitled “Transforming the Knowledge 
Base,” Betty Schmitz, another major figure on the transformation circuit, 
described how the search committee had questioned all the candidates 
about their commitment to feminist transformation projects. Ms. Schmitz 
was pleased to report: “Every single candidate was prepared for the ques¬ 
tion. Two had funded programs on their own campuses, and the third 
had actually been involved in a project.” 2 

Ms. Schmitz’s confidence in the screening procedure was not mis¬ 
placed. Shortly after his appointment, President William Kirwan came 
through with $500,000 of the university’s funds for a curriculum trans¬ 
formation project, without going through the faculty senate to do so. 

Curricular matters are traditionally the province of the faculty or one 
of its representative bodies, such as the faculty senate. Changes in the 


Who Stole Feminism? 

curriculum normally involve intensive scrutiny and extensive debate fol¬ 
lowed by a vote. Kirwan’s action seems most unusual. Ms. Schmitz, who 
had become Kirwan’s assistant, reported how the president had to face a 
lot of “backlash” from the faculty and how she helped the president by 
giving him arguments to cope with the problem. She advised her sister 
transformationists to expect similar situations: “You will also have to 
prepare your administrators about what is going to happen. ... It is won¬ 
derful to be able to supply appropriate words to the head of an institution, 
and it is important that people knowledgeable about the issues and well- 
versed in the language be in key positions to do so.” 3 Faculty resistance 
does not faze Ms. Schmitz: “Speaking the unspeakable is a component of 
disrupting the patriarchy. The anger or disbelief that surfaces when fac¬ 
ulty are forced to confront bias as a systemic, pervasive problem is the 
necessary first stage in the change process.” 4 

Ms. Schmitz, who is better known as an activist than as a contributor 
to education theory or epistemology, is a confident apparatchik who goes 
about applying the insights of feminist theorists like Peggy McIntosh and 
Elizabeth Minnich to the urgent project of “breaking the disciplines” and 
transforming the curriculum. In these practical tasks she reports gratifying 
progress: A “heartening trend is the degree to which state monies and 
internal funds are being placed into curriculum transformation,” she says, 
boasting of her success in establishing “a new position for a permanent 
director of the curriculum transformation project” at the University of 
Maryland. 5 

I dwell on Ms. Schmitz not because she is so unusual (though she is 
very good at what she does) but precisely because she is representative of 
the new breed of bureaucratic feminist. Skilled workshoppers, network- 
ers, and fundraisers, they move within the corridors of academic power 
with ease and effectiveness, occasionally supplying “appropriate words” 
to those in power as needed to further the goals of the new pedagogy and 
to counter criticism. Schmitz is a great admirer of Dr. McIntosh, both for 
her insights into feminist pedagogical theory and for her prescient politi¬ 
cal analysis of how to get and hold power in the academy and, once 
attained, how to use it to further an agenda of transformation. 

Since Maryland, Ms. Schmitz has moved to the state of Washington, 
where again she is working to install the apparatus of transformation. 
Here is more of her astute advice to her sisters in the transformation 
movement: “We. . . have to build our message into the mission of the 
institution, and we have to help those in the institution think about the 
future. . . . We have to see what the organization is aspiring to be and 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


make sure that as the sentences articulating those goals are being formed, 
we provide language that informs them.” 6 

Ms. Schmitz has written a handbook for transformationists. In it she 
uses Peggy McIntosh’s five-phase theory to grade teachers and their 
classes. Phase one, you will remember, is the lowest stage of curricular 
consciousness. Phase five cannot be attained in today’s culture, but phase 
four, in which “classes are wondrous and healing,” is attainable. Even so, 
says Ms. Schmitz, “the amount of time it will take a given individual to 
reach Phase 4 is not predictable.” 7 Schmitz refers to the five phases as if 
they were as scientifically established as the phases of the moon. Her 
handbook contains pointers on how to deal with “hostile” faculty “with 
an unwavering belief in traditional standards of excellence.” These are the 
“respected scholars,” an “unreachable” group of “Phase 1 thinkers.” 8 Ac¬ 
cording to Schmitz: 

These faculty may also be respected scholars in their field and pop¬ 
ular teachers. They have no reason to change. If faced with pressure 
from administrators or project leaders, they will raise issues of aca¬ 
demic freedom, the place of ideology in the curriculum, and their 
right to determine what is to be taught in their classes. 9 

Ms. Schmitz seems cynically aware that, despite their protests over the 
erosion of academic freedoms, the respected scholars no longer have the 
power they once had, and she reports that most project directors do not 
consider it “worth the effort to target this group specifically.” 10 

Few on the faculty offer resistance to curricular change, nor do many 
raise issues of academic freedom. To get them to cooperate actively in 
their own “reeducation,” Ms. Schmitz and her colleagues candidly rec¬ 
ommend financial incentives: “How much faculty reeducation is possible 
without benefit of money for stipends? Our recent experience with re¬ 
gional consortia for curriculum integration suggests that even small 
amounts of seed money for initiating projects can result in concrete 
change.” 11 

Large amounts of money work even better. At Maryland, for the past 
several summer vacations, the administration has offered faculty members 
a percentage of their annual salary to attend seminars on curriculum 
transformation. In 1991, for example, the classes met twice a week during 
July and August and faculty received 20 percent of their salary. Assuming 
an average $40,000 annual salary, this would mean that workshoppers 
earned about $500 for each class they attended. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Professor Herman Belz, a distinguished political scientist, noted with 
alarm that curriculum transformation was being implemented at Mary¬ 
land, although it had never been voted on or endorsed by the faculty. Not 
having access to the administration’s channels of distribution, he pub¬ 
lished his misgivings in the faculty newspaper: 

Faculty who are concerned to preserve and maintain intellectual 
integrity and freedom of academic inquiry in the University should 
examine carefully the recommendations of the [curriculum transfor¬ 
mation committee] report. They should be aware of the potential 
threat to disciplinary autonomy that it contains. And they should 
take steps to bring the subject of curriculum transformation into the 
fresh air and open forums of public debate, where through the forms 
and procedures of critical deliberation we govern ourselves as an 
academic community. 12 

At the “historic” panel discussion, Ms. Schmitz would refer to protests 
in the school paper as “hysterical and extreme” backlash. 13 She assured 
her sister panelists that transformation at Maryland would be unaffected. 
“But we . . . have to keep educating the leadership.” 

Ms. Schmitz became known to the Middle Tennessee State University 
faculty when, under the sponsorship of the Tennessee Board of Regents, 
she conducted a curriculum transformation workshop in February 1990.. 
In March 1990, the Advisory Committee for Curricular Transformation 
became prominent. This committee, which had been given no charge by 
the faculty senate, asserted that its authority to transform the curriculum 
stemmed from the regents: “This committee was formed in response to a 
mandate from the Board of Regents based on the findings published in 
the 1989 statewide report on the Status of Women in Academe.” 14 

Pursuing what it took to be its mandate, the Advisory Committee for 
Curricular Transformation sent a lengthy (eighty-seven-item) question¬ 
naire to the Middle Tennessee State faculty querying them in detail about 
how they ran their classes and asking questions designed to test their 
level of feminist consciousness. The advisory committee asked the profes¬ 
sors to analyze their assigned readings, their lectures, and their audiovi¬ 
sual material and to reply to questions like “How often were the pronouns 
‘she’ or ‘her’ used? How often did examples relate only to typical male 
experience or use only males in examples? How often are women shown 
in positions of power or action? How often are men shown in familial or 
domestic roles?” One section asks whether the instructors agree, agree 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


strongly, disagree, or disagree strongly with such statements as “My stu¬ 
dents learned about how women feel about their lives. My students 
learned about changing gender roles.” 

One section entitled “Overall Course Evaluation” could be used to 
show where the professor ranks on Peggy McIntosh’s hve-phase scale. 
The pertinent question is: 

Having looked at various components of your course, now look at your 

course as a whole. How would you classify this course? 

1. neither men nor women were included in this course 

2. womanless—no mention of women at all [a yes to No. 1 or No. 2 
would signal to the interrogator that the respondent is in the first 

3. the only women depicted were treated as exceptional women or as 
anomalies [a second or third phaser] 

4. women and men were described both separately and comparatively, 
stressing inter-relationships [a phase four lateral thinker] 

Needless to say, most Tennessee professors were probably unaware that 
their answers in this section could be indicative of their place on that 
critical scale. 

Actually, the faculty “scored” quite well on the feminist consciousness 
scale. Feminine pronouns were used just as much or more than male 
pronouns in the readings. Instructors reported they “rarely” used exam¬ 
ples that related only to males. Females were more often the main focus 
of films and videos shown in class and appeared in two-thirds of the 
textbook illustrations. Professors reported that men and women spoke up 
in class at the same rate but that men were slightly more likely to be 
interrupted by other students than were the women. More than half the 
respondents reached “phase four” on Ms. McIntosh’s scale. 15 

Nevertheless, many faculty felt the interrogations were fatuous and 
irritating, and they began to show some fight. The senate introduced a 
resolution against any language that “mandates revision, transformation, 
integration, or restructuring of the curriculum.” Though that passed 
unanimously, the advisory committee ignored it. A new and equally in¬ 
trusive questionnaire was soon on the way, and the regents and the 
Middle Tennessee State University administrators were spending more 
university funds on workshops and other transformation activities. 

I called Middle Tennessee State’s vice president of academic affairs, 
James Hindman, the administrator in charge of the transformation proj¬ 
ect. At first he expressed enthusiasm for it, but when he sensed I did not 


Who Stole Feminism? 

share his enthusiasm, he became defensive and claimed never to have 
seen the questionnaire. “It came from some outside organization. I had 
nothing to do with it,” he said. He said he knew very little about the 
details of the transformation project and advised me to speak to the 
women’s studies staff. 

When I asked him about the workshops, conferences, and other trans¬ 
formationist activities, he got angry. “Who are you? You have no right to 
interview me or quote me.” He slammed the phone down. I have since 
sent in a freedom-of-information form asking about the funding for the 
transformation activities at Middle Tennessee State University, with cop¬ 
ies to the attorney general’s office and the Tennessee Board of Regents. 
The citizens of Tennessee have the right to know just how much of their 
money is being spent to have their college curriculum transformed to the 
liking of Ms. Stimpson, Ms. Schmitz, Ms. McIntosh, Ms. Schuster, Ms. 
Van Dyne, and Ms. Minnich. 

Vice President Hindman was right about one thing. The questionnaire 
came from elsewhere: it was in fact designed by the Association of Amer¬ 
ican Colleges (AAC), an organization funded by dues from most of Amer¬ 
ica’s colleges. The AAC used to be a nonpolitical professional organization 
devoted to monitoring the scholarly standards of American colleges. 
These days, though, it produces an impressive number of surveys, pack¬ 
ets, tracts, and brochures that promote gender feminist causes in the 
American academy. Among their many feminist publications are “Success 
and Survival Strategies for Women Faculty Members,” “Students at the 
Center: Feminist Assessment,” “Evaluating Courses for Inclusion of New 
Scholarship on Women,” and “The Campus Climate Revisited: Chilly for 
Women Faculty, Administrators, and Graduate Students.” 

The Association of American Colleges was founded in 1915 to “im¬ 
prove undergraduate liberal education,” a task to which it was conven¬ 
tionally faithful until fairly recently. As late as 1985, an AAC report 
defended the college major and spoke of “the joy of mastery, the thrill of 
moving forward in a formal body of knowledge and gaining some effective 
control over it, integrating it, perhaps even making some small contribu¬ 
tion to it.” 

Several women’s studies luminaries—Johnnella Butler, Sandra Coyner, 
Marlene Longenecker, and Caryn McTighe Musil—found this remark 
offensive. In a scathing report to the AAC, made possible by “generous 
funding” from the cooperative Ford Foundation and the Fund for the 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE), they “deconstructed” 
the offending passage: 

A feminist analysis of this rhetoric reveals ... an analogy between 
knowledge and sexual subjugation . . . , an idea of learning as mas¬ 
tery or control. Clearly embedded ... are unconscious androcentric 
assumptions of dominance and subordination between the knower 
and the known, assumptions that too readily bring to mind the 
traditional relationship of men to women; of the colonizers to the 
colonized; indeed, of the masters to the slaves. Such phallocentric 
metaphors . . . [are not] the accidental usage of one report; they 
replicate the dominant discourses of Western empiricism that wom¬ 
en’s studies . . . critiques. 16 

The AAC is not likely to offend again. Even as it was being so sharply 
rebuked, the AAC was targeted for a gender feminist makeover. These 
days, it is an important resource for transformationists, and Caryn Mc- 
Tighe Musil is one of its senior fellows. She and Johnnella Butler, the 
feminist scholar from Washington University, are playing a principal role 
in the newly inaugurated $4.5 million AAC transformationist project. 17 

As for Ms. Schmitz, she is now a senior associate for the Cultural 
Pluralism Project at the Washington Center at Evergreen State College, 
where, amply funded by the Ford Foundation and the state government, 
she oversees the transformation project in several universities and colleges 
in the state. She, too, has recently served as a senior fellow at the AAC. 

The AAC is not the only such organization to have caught the transfor¬ 
mationist fever. Groups like the American Association of University 
Women and the prestigious American Council on Education now take it 
for granted that American education must be radically transformed. Con¬ 
sider, for example, this programmatic statement in a report sponsored by 
the American Council on Education entitled “The New Agenda of Women 
for Higher Education”: 

What has yet to happen on all of our campuses is the transformation 
of knowledge and, therefore, of the curriculum demanded by this 
explosion of new information, and by challenges to conventional 
ways of thinking and knowing. Women’s studies, the new scholar¬ 
ship on women, or transformation of the curriculum projects—the 
names vary according to campus and culture—should be goals of 
the faculty and academic administration on every campus. 18 


Who Stole Feminism? 

The transformation of the philosophy major at Mount Holyoke College 
is an example of change as it may affect an individual scholarly depart¬ 
ment. In the late eighties Mount Holyoke College was given funds by the 
Donner Foundation to conduct transformation seminars. Next it acquired 
a provost of the right consciousness, Peter Berek, who had been at Wil¬ 
liams College. In the spring of 1992, this little item appeared in the 
college newspaper, under the headline “Philosophy Transforms Major”: 

In an unusual move, the Philosophy Department has broken away 
from traditional requirements for philosophy majors and minors. 

... [As a result] students will be able to pursue in depth an area of 
special interest, including contemporary topics of philosophical 
thought—such as feminist philosophy, the philosophy of racism, 
and the philosophy of film. 

The article noted the support the administration had given to the 
transformation of the philosophy major. Here is how the philosophy 
major was described before the transformation: “The major in philosophy 
is designed to provide the student with a broad understanding of the 
historical background of contemporary philosophical thought. ... It shall 
consist of at least eight courses, including one each in the history of 
ancient philosophy, the history of modem philosophy, and logic.” Here 
is the new description: “A major in philosophy should provide the stu¬ 
dent with a broad understanding of the background of contemporary 
philosophy. . . . Because philosophy admits of a diversity of sometimes 
competing conceptions of what philosophy is, the Department encour¬ 
ages each major to articulate her own major program.” 

The catalog does say that “most students” will be “encouraged to in¬ 
clude . . . courses that provide an historical background for her area of 
special interest.” But the old requirements are gone, and philosophy as a 
traditional major at Mount Holyoke no longer exists. Having broken away 
from the historic “phase one” demands that required the student to be¬ 
come thoroughly conversant with such “geniuses” as Plato, Descartes, and 
Kant, the rules now allow a philosophy student to get her degree by 
taking such courses as “Developments in Feminist Philosophy: Rethink¬ 
ing the World” (which explains how feminists reconstruct their “own . . . 
version of philosophy”), “Philosophy and Film” (including a special study 
of films that feature an “unlikely couple”), “Film Comedy” (which in¬ 
cludes “feminist approaches to screwball comedy”), and “Feminist Sci¬ 
ence Fiction as Feminist Theory.” 19 

Some colleges have instituted policies to screen out phase one “un- 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


reachables” early in the faculty hiring process. Cornell College in Iowa 
was one of the first to make such policies official. All applicants for 
teaching positions at Cornell College must show that they are conversant 
with and sympathetic to the new feminist scholarship. According to a 
1988 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, 

Dennis Damon Moore, dean of the College, says that prospective 
faculty members are asked at interviews what impact feminist schol¬ 
arship has had on their work and teaching. In addition, he says, 
when faculty members are reviewed, they are specifically asked to 
examine the relationship of the feminist perspective to their work. 20 

Six years later these sorts of developments are no longer “news,” and 
the Chronicle does not report on them. The transformationists have come 
a long way in a very short time. How much farther they will go depends 
on the university faculties and the independent learned societies, which 
have so far shown little inclination to make a stand in defense of the 
traditional standards of liberal learning. Moreover, the transformationists 
are increasingly seeing to it that the faculties themselves are changing to 
include more and more people of the “right consciousness.” As the num¬ 
ber of doctrinally correct personnel grows, they, too, will see to it that 
only candidates of like qualifications are hired in the future. Ironically, 
the ongoing self-selection of faculty of the right feminist persuasion is 
being carried out in the name of “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” 

There are hundreds of well-funded transformationist projects through¬ 
out the country. Peggy McIntosh’s Center for Research on Women at 
Wellesley College has a multimillion-dollar budget. The project at the 
University of Maryland has half a million to work with. The doyenne of 
transformationists, Caryn McTighe Musil, and her associates at the Asso¬ 
ciation of American Colleges will have $4.5 million. Almost all transfor¬ 
mationist projects are financially helped by being housed in the 
universities, where rent, postage, and other overhead is minimal. Many 
use the secretarial staffs and services of their host colleges. 

Much of their funding comes from foundation grants, but the bulk of 
it comes from public funds, via state support for universities. In addition 
to the many individual projects supported within the universities, there 
are the umbrella organizations such as the AAC, which are now commit¬ 
ted to the educational philosophy and agenda of the transformationists. 
And there, again, the university bureaucracies are paying. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

It, is a dismaying fact that only one organization—the National Asso¬ 
ciation of Scholars—has been openly expressing concern at what the 
transformationists are doing in and to the American academy. The NAS 
has an office in Princeton, New Jersey, with a staff of six (two part-timers), 
a budget of $900,000, and a national membership of fewer than three 
thousand. In contrast to the transformationists, the NAS operates entirely 
on its own; no university supports it or offers it facilities. 

Needless to say, the “politically correct” forces led by the gender femi¬ 
nists are continually blasting the NAS as a backlashing, sexist, racist, 
right-wing organization populated by “phase one” unreachables. In fact, 
like most professional educational or academic associations, the NAS has 
liberal as well as conservative members, including James David Barber, a 
Duke University political science professor, antiwar leader, and former 
president of Amnesty International; Richard Lamm, former Democratic 
governor of Colorado; Seymour Martin Lipset, current president of 
the American Sociological Association; and Eugene and Elizabeth Fox- 
Genovese, a Marxist historian and a socialist feminist, respectively. My 
husband, Fred Sommers, and I—both registered Democrats—are mem¬ 
bers of the Boston chapter, which has no distinctive political coloration. 
The common denominator is alarm at the loss of academic freedoms and 
a strong conviction that traditional academic standards must be protected. 

The NAS, a tiny minority in the American academy, has a principled 
respect for open discussion. This requires it to give hearings to the op¬ 
position wherever it can. Steven Balch, its national director, and his staff 
make it a practice to invite major spokespersons with opposing points of 
view to NAS meetings and conventions. These gatherings are often the 
scenes of real debate on the very controversial issues that divide the NAS 
from its adversaries. 

One reason the NAS has remained so small is that anyone who joins 
the organization faces opprobrium and labeling as a “reactionary.” Unten¬ 
ured members place themselves in special jeopardy. Nevertheless, as more 
and more faculty are becoming fed up with the doctrinaire forces that are 
steadily reducing the degrees of freedom of both teachers and students on 
America’s campuses, the membership keeps rising. 

Professor Jim Hawkins teaches philosophy at Santa Monica City Col¬ 
lege. What happened at his college induced him to join with several of 
his colleagues to form an NAS chapter on his campus. During the 1989- 
90 academic year, a “Curriculum Transformation Task Force” was formed 
at Santa Monica by the administration without the usual faculty senate 
participation. The Curriculum Transformation Task Force issued a report 
whose central thesis seemed to be that the college’s traditional curriculum 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


had a “Eurocentric, white male orientation.” It “prescribed a wholesale 
rethinking of ‘all the categories on which we have come, consciously or 
not, to depend,’ including our very definitions of courses, paradigms, 
disciplines, and departments.” 21 Professor Hawkins and his colleagues 
also became aware that the administration was making substantial 
changes in the hiring processes, again without benefit of faculty input. 
For example, “a larger administrative contingent began to serve on previ¬ 
ously faculty-dominated hiring committees, along with . . . people specif¬ 
ically trained to promote the cause of ‘diversity.’ ” The hiring of new 
faculty at Santa Monica was soon being carefully monitored by the trans¬ 
formationists to ensure ideological rectitude. It is now a matter of routine 
at Santa Monica City College that applicants are asked multiple questions 
on transformationism. Hawkins cites one enthusiastic monitor as saying, 
“If you have to hire a white male, at least be sure his head is in the right 
place.” Professor Hawkins concludes his report on transformationist activ¬ 
ities at Santa Monica City College with the advice to “challenge your local 
transformationists to defend their proposals and premises. For many of 
them this will be, sadly, an unaccustomed experience.” 22 

At many colleges and universities, administrators ask students to eval¬ 
uate their professors on their sensitivity to gender issues. American Uni¬ 
versity, for example, now asks the student whether “the course examined 
the contributions of both women and men.” One political science profes¬ 
sor explained to me that at American your salary is directly linked to how 
well you do on these forms. He once made the mistake of saying “con¬ 
gressmen” instead of “congresspersons” and was rudely rebuked by two 
female students. He was convinced they would dock him several points 
for that lapse. The University of Minnesota has established a core of 
graduate students called “Classroom Climate Advisors” to help students 
offended by the remarks of professors or fellow students “develop a strat¬ 
egy for dealing with the problem.” 23 

But more important changes have occurred at the level of staffing. 
Candidates for faculty positions are likely to be subject to careful screen¬ 
ing to keep out persons of the wrong consciousness. To make this pos¬ 
sible, the deciding committees must themselves be of the right 
consciousness. At the University of Arizona, faculty members who are not 
“keeping up with current trends” in postmodern and feminist thought 
may be disqualified from sitting on tenure and promotion committees. 
This new policy proposed by the (then) dean of the faculty of humanities, 
Annette Kolodny, would significantly curtail the traditional prerogatives 
of senior faculty to pass on appointments and promotions. 24 The impulse 
to doctrinal control by removing dissident opinion from positions of 


Who Stole Feminism? 

power sometimes takes a less subtle form. Incensed that an NAS chapter 
was being formed at Duke University, Professor Stanley Fish asked the 
dean to institute a policy that would exclude NAS members from serving 
on committees dealing with tenure and promotion decisions. In that case 
the dean did not comply. 

In addition to tightening the bureaucratic screws, the forces of doc¬ 
trinal rectitude work persistently and effectively to modify perspectives 
and group behavior. One example: In 1990, Virginia Polytechnic issued 
to the faculty copies of Removing Bias, a sixty-page guide presenting “tac¬ 
tics for attitudinal change.” The guide advises professors on how they can 
avoid offensive humor: professors are encouraged to consult Free to Be 
You and Me by Mario Thomas for help on how to be funny while “elimi¬ 
nating gender stereotyping.” 25 

The tacit cooperation of government personnel is indispensable to the 
transformationists. I recently phoned the State Board of Education in 
Washington to inquire about a Transformation Conference being orga¬ 
nized by Betty Schmitz for twelve community colleges. All four speakers 
—who included Johnnella Butler and Betty Schmitz—represented essen¬ 
tially the same point of view. I asked Alberta May, an assistant director 
for student services on the Washington State Board for Community and 
Technical Colleges who helps Ms. Schmitz to organize events, why they 
were not inviting speakers who had different ideas about curriculum 
reform. After all, I said, the educational philosophy advocated by Ms. 
Schmitz and her associates is quite controversial. “What do you mean?” 
asked a genuinely baffled Ms. May. “In what way could it be called 

Ms. May is a state employee. My question evidently rattled her, and 
she sent me a follow-up letter that gives some indication of the blind 
loyalty that transformationists command within some government bu¬ 
reaucracies: “Visionary leaders at a large percentage of institutions of 
higher education perceive the infusion of cultural pluralism as adding 
strength to the general educational curricula. . . . The State Board for 
Community and Technical Colleges . . . values the leadership and exper¬ 
tise of both Dr. Betty Schmitz and Dr. Johnnella Butler in this area.” 

News of my conversation with Ms. May must have reached Ms. 
Schmitz, for she wrote to me accusing me of “having attempted to per¬ 
suade one of my clients to terminate my employment” and warning me 
that her “attorneys consider [my] conduct unlawful interference with a 
business relationship.” She concluded: “If I learn that you have again 
attempted to interfere in any of my professional relationships, I shall take 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


all available steps to assure that such conduct does not occur again and 
to redress any resulting damage.” 

Ms. Schmitz’s readiness to use the masculinist courts to deal with 
“interference” does not surprise me. Nor is it surprising that her experi¬ 
ence has given her the assurance that the government is on her side and 
that its largesse is rightfully hers. 

Despite their overwhelming successes, the transformationists keep 
warning their supporters about an impending “right-wing backlash.” 
Caryn McTighe Musil attacks the NAS in the 1992 anthology The Courage 
to Question: Women’s Studies and Student Learning for purveying “misin¬ 
formed and dangerous polemics.” 26 No examples are given, although a 
footnote cites a 1988 NAS conference. Ms. Musil’s reaction is instructive: 
criticism of any kind—even in a small scholarly conference four years 
ago—cannot be abided. It must be denounced, and those responsible 
must be impugned. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, director of the Women’s Re¬ 
search Center at Spelman College, says it more soberly in a recent finan¬ 
cial report she wrote for the Ford Foundation: 

We must not allow the current preoccupation with “political cor¬ 
rectness” to obscure the reality of a modern-day, well-organized, 
right-wing movement (inside and outside the academy) whose old 
and popular racist, sexist, and homophobic schemes threaten to 
reverse the progressive reforms of the 1960’s. . . . This makes it nec¬ 
essary to advocate loudly and clearly for the demise of the androcen¬ 
tric curriculum. . . . The support for Women’s Studies should 
intensify during this paradoxical period of assault. 27 

It goes without saying that no one deserves to be called sexist or racist 
for defending the traditional curriculum. Nor should criticizing the edu¬ 
cational philosophy of gender feminists be taken as any kind of sign that 
the critic belongs to a “right-wing movement.” Although many conserva¬ 
tives oppose transformationism, many of the best-known critics who pub¬ 
licly express alarm about its effects on American education would be 
counted politically as left of center. These include Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., 
James David Barber, Nat Hentoff, James Atlas, Robert Hughes, C. Vann 
Woodward, Robert Alter, the late Irving Howe, Eugene Genovese, Alan 
Dershowitz, Paul Berman, and John Searle. 

They are joined by a growing number of progressive women including 
such distinguished figures as Cynthia Ozick, Cynthia Wolff, Mary Lef- 
kowitz, Iris Murdoch, Doris Lessing, Sylvia Hewlett, Elizabeth Fox-Gen- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

ovese, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Rita Simon, Susan Haack, and Ruth Barcan 

The novelist Cynthia Ozick is a classical feminist who believes we are 
now witnessing the deterioration of feminism in the academy. She told 
me, “The whole point of feminism was to give women access to the great 
world. The new feminism on the campuses is regressive.” 

Mary Lefkowitz, a Wellesley classicist, is a pioneer in the study of 
women in the ancient world, but she does not read the lives of women of 
antiquity in terms of any rigid feminist system of interpretation. As a 
result, Professor Lefkowitz is persona non grata among many feminist 
historians. As a veteran equity feminist, Lefkowitz fought long and hard 
against the old boy network that once discriminated against women 
scholars. She believes it is being replaced by a new network, an old girl 
network of feminist preferment. “Just like many revolutions,” she points 
out, “it becomes as bad as what it replaced.” 

I spoke with another distinguished classical scholar, Rebecca Hague, 
professor of classics at Amherst College. She expressed grave doubts 
about the value of a “feminist perspective on the ancient world” that 
focuses on women’s absence from the government, taking that as proof 
that women were silenced and oppressed. “I am not sure that women in 
the ancient world wanted a role in the government. For them the religious 
life had far more value, and there women had a central role.” Like Lefko¬ 
witz, Hague condemns the feminist intolerance to criticism. “I have the 
feeling that if you question them, you will be targeted.” 

Iris Murdoch fears that the progress being made in the cause of libera¬ 
tion, which she defines as freedom “to enjoy equal education, equal 
opportunities, equal rights, and to be treated as men are—as ordinary 
people on their own merits and not as a special tribe,” is being seriously 
threatened by feminists who lay claim to female ethics, female criticism, 
and female knowledge. 

When one thinks of “role models” for female college students of a 
liberal, artistic bent, women like Iris Murdoch, Joan Didion, Doris Less¬ 
ing, Susan Sontag, and Cynthia Ozick come to mind. These women have 
expressed deep reservations about gynocentric feminism. Joan Didion 
articulated her abhorrence of the idea of designating “women” as a special 
class in a 1979 essay. 28 Susan Sontag wrote in a 1975 essay published in 
the New York Review of Books that she deplores feminist “anti-intellectual- 
ism” and felt it necessary to “dissociate myself from that wing of feminism 
that promotes the rancid and dangerous antithesis between mind . . . and 
emotion.” 29 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


In a 1991 lecture at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Doris Lessing 
criticized the “rampaging kind of feminist” and called the denigration of 
male writers sheer “nonsense” that will alienate sensible women from 
feminism. “Hearing this kind of thing, many women think, oh my God, I 
don’t want to have anything to do with this.” 30 But such opinions are 
ignored by the women’s studies and transformation movements. “That is 
what has made you marginal in the universities,” Cynthia Ozick was 
warned by a campus feminist when she expressed the “wrong” views in a 
New Yorker article some years ago. 

Perhaps the most conspicuous target of feminist opprobrium is Camille 
Paglia, who has managed to confound her attackers by striking back 
publicly and to great effect. After her book Sexual Personae not only 
became an unexpected best-seller but also was hailed by a number of 
scholarly critics, she could reasonably have expected to be acknowledged 
as an outstanding woman scholar even by those who take strong excep¬ 
tion to her unfashionable views. 

But the Women’s Review oj Books branded Sexual Personae a work of 
“crackpot extremism,” “an apologia for a new post-Cold War fascism,” 
patriarchy’s “counter-assault on feminism.” 31 Feminist professors at Con¬ 
necticut College, attempting to get it removed from a reading list, com¬ 
pared it to Mein Kampf. When Paglia appeared at a Brown University 
forum, outraged faculty feminists signed a petition censuring her and 
demanding an investigation into procedures for inviting speakers to the 

Yale professor Harold Bloom has pointed out that “someone as bril¬ 
liant, as learned, as talented, and as ferociously burning an intellect as 
Camille Paglia” belongs in the Ivy League or at someplace like the Uni¬ 
versity of California at Berkeley or the University of Chicago. But the 
“bureaucrats of resentment who are appointed by others in the network 
because they are politically correct” will continue to do their utmost to 
make sure that this does not happen. “They will blackball her every¬ 
where.” 32 

Despite Paglia’s continued defiance, the lesson is clear: anyone who 
dares to criticize the “New Feminist scholarship” must be prepared for 
rough treatment. When the Shakespearean scholar Richard Levin took 
issue with some feminist interpretations of Shakespeare’s tragedies, he 
was denounced in a rude letter boasting no fewer than twenty-four sig¬ 
natories. Signing in groups is a standard feature of feminist critical re¬ 
sponse. In the letter, published in PM LA, they tell us they are “puzzled 
and disturbed that Richard Levin has made a successful academic career” 


Who Stole Feminism? 

in view of his way of interpreting literary texts. They censure the journal 
for having published Levin’s article. If they had their way, Levin would 
effectively be denied the opportunity to publish his views. 33 

Neither Levin nor Paglia is fazed by such feminist onslaughts, but it 
would be hard to underestimate the inhibiting effects on others. Intimi¬ 
dation has enforced a stultifying conformity. To criticize the New Femi¬ 
nist scholarship without having tenure is reckless in the extreme: it is 
now virtually impossible to find public fault with academic feminism 
without paying for it in drastically diminished prospects for jobs or ad¬ 
vancement in the American academy. The pressure to refrain from criti¬ 
cism is matched by the pressure to toe the line by zealously promoting 
feminist doctrine. 

The New Feminism has been rapidly colonizing and “transforming” the 
American university. The influx was not invited, nor was it greeted with 
much enthusiasm. Yet it has not met with significant resistance. Why not? 

Part of the answer is that some academic gender feminists regard the 
academy as a patriarchal institution whose normal procedures serve to 
keep European white males in power. Being morally convinced that they 
are not bound to adhere to rules of “fair play” devised by the oppressor, 
these gender feminist ideologues have no scruples about bypassing nor¬ 
mal channels in gaining their ends. 

A more important part of the answer is that a confused and well- 
meaning academic community has failed to distinguish clearly between 
equity and gender feminism. A befuddled liberalism has proved to be 
fertile soil for the growth of an intolerant gender feminism. The cannier 
feminists were quick to seize their opportunities. “You might wonder,” 
says Paula Goldsmid, a former dean at Oberlin College, “how we managed 
to generate a women’s studies program that has a catalog supplement 
listing more than twenty courses, that offers an individual major in wom¬ 
en’s studies, that has been able to involve several committees in really 
working to transform the academy in various ways.” She describes one 
successful tactic: “There is a great reluctance to say or do anything pub¬ 
licly that goes against the liberal and ‘progressive’ Oberlin stance. Ober- 
lin’s liberal values can be turned to our advantage” (her emphasis). 34 

Paula Rothenberg, head of the New Jersey Project, gives much the same 
explanation for how she and her sister feminists got their own college, 
William Paterson, to institute a women’s studies requirement: “Our sur¬ 
prising success was due to . . . the presence on the curriculum committee 
of some allies and old-style liberals who found it difficult to disagree with 
the idea of such a requirement, at least in public.” 35 

Those who have their reservations about the costs of the rapid feminist 

A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 


colonization of the academy remain in disarray. Many of the feminists 
who entered the academy in the seventies and eighties had been activists 
in the antiwar sixties and seventies. Established academics, who might 
have been expected to resist some of the ideological baggage these femi¬ 
nists had brought with them, proved to be no match for these dedicated 
veterans. In the first place, many were inexperienced in dealing with 
people who simply ignored the unspoken understanding that no group on 
an American campus should promote a political agenda in its classrooms. 
And male faculty quickly became aware that resistance to feminist pro¬ 
posals would automatically be condemned as sexist and reactionary. The 
charge that the university itself was a male club kept them permanently 
off balance. 

Moreover, part of the legacy of the sixties was that a significant part of 
the liberal academy had long since shifted away from the classical individ¬ 
ualist liberalism of John Locke and John Stuart Mill to “anti-establishment 
liberalism.” They were not averse to the gender feminists’ message that 
the university itself was part of a morally discredited establishment. 

Recently, I was discussing the subject of the gender feminist “coloni¬ 
zation” of the academy with a prominent scholar and equity feminist. I 
told her of my view that well-meaning administrators and professors— 
mostly males—were failing to distinguish between equity feminism and 
its unscrupulous twin, gender feminism, and what harm their confusion 
was causing. My friend’s theory was less flattering than mine. In her view, 
the male scholars who have given so much latitude to poorly qualified 
feminist ideologues knew very well what they were doing. Most academic 
men, she says, are themselves average scholars and not overly comfortable 
with competition from capable women. The female scholars whom they 
have allowed to outflank them strategically are at least intellectually less 
threatening than “vertical” thinkers like Helen Vendler, Ruth Barcan Mar¬ 
cus, or Elizabeth Fox-Genovese. If my friend is right, the inordinate 
influence of gender feminism in the academy is due at least in part to old- 
fashioned sexism. Her theory is mischievous and attractive, and it has 
elements of truth. For when a man of indifferent talents is conscious of 
being inferior to a woman, the problem of his own inferiority tends to be 
compounded by the fact that he is being bested by a woman. 

On the whole, however, most women scholars I have spoken to about 
this do not support my friend’s theory. Most competent women academ¬ 
ics find that they are treated no worse and no better than their male 
counterparts. The far less interesting explanation they offer for the failure 
of men—especially male deans—to stand up to feminist ideologues and 
their projects is that they wished to avoid unpleasantness. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

I once asked a prominent philosopher of science—a politically 
progressive, fair-minded man—what he thought of a lecture by Sandra 
Harding critiquing “male science.” He told me he found it to be incom¬ 

“Did you raise any objection in the question-and-answer period?” I 

“No,” he said. “I am just hoping it will all go away.” 

The problem is that “it” is not just going to go away. “It”—the gender 
feminist establishment—is well entrenched, and its numbers are increas¬ 
ing. It is confident, and it has little respect for scholars like my friend. If 
anything, it is this Oxford-trained philosopher, a “phase one vertical 
thinker,” who is in danger of becoming irrelevant in the transformed 
university of the future. 

The presence of a frankly ideological and politically powerful core of 
academics in America’s universities has consequences far beyond the 
academy. Activist organizations like the National Organization of 
Women, the Ms. Foundation, and the American Association of University 
Women strive constantly to persuade the wider public that women are 
urgently in need of the protections they will help to provide. These 
organizations rely on a pool of academic feminists to faithfully produce 
books, data, and studies that demonstrate alarming amounts of sexism, 
discrimination, and gender bias. 

Most feminist activists are sincerely committed to their mission, but 
there are material rewards that should not go unnoticed. In our tight 
economy, many productive people in depressed industries have lost or 
are in danger of losing their jobs. There is no comparable threat to the 
thriving careers of the professional feminists—the workshoppers, facili¬ 
tators, and transformationists. Large numbers of professionals with job 
titles like “sex equity expert,” “gender bias officer,” and “harassment facil¬ 
itator” are remuneratively engaged in finding, monitoring, and eradicating 
endless manifestations of gender bias. 

That the feminist bureaucracies already command significant patronage 
and power is due in great part to their ability to influence local legislatures 
and school boards. More recently, they have shown a capacity to influence 
policy and law at the federal level. Here again, much of their effectiveness 
is due to their talents for persuading legislatures of the truth of some 
alarming “facts” about the plight of women, based on “studies that 
show ...” The near-term prospect that they will have at their disposal 
an ever-larger number of ill-defined but well-paying jobs is bright 

Chapter 7 

The Self-Esteem Study 

In 1991, newspapers around the country carried alarming reports 
about the plummeting self-esteem of American teenage girls. “Little girls 
lose their self-esteem on way to adolescence, study finds,” said the New 
York Times. 1 “Girls’ confidence erodes over years, study says” (Chicago 
Tribune). 2 “Study points to stark gender differences” (Boston Globe). 3 

The study had been commissioned by the American Association of 
University Women (AAUW), a women’s organization founded in 1881, 
dedicated to promoting excellence in women’s education. Like the League 
of Women Voters, it is one of the more respected women’s organizations, 
with a current membership of about 140,000. Any study bearing its 
imprimatur is assured of wide and serious attention. 

As part of its “Initiative for Educational Equity,” the AAUW commis¬ 
sioned the Washington, D.C., polling firm of Greenberg-Lake Associates 
to measure the self-esteem of girls and boys between the ages of nine and 
fifteen. Three thousand children were asked about their self-confidence, 
career goals, and scholarly interests. According to the AAUW, the poll 


Who Stole Feminism? 

showed that between the ages of eleven and sixteen, girls experience a 
dramatic drop in self-esteem, which in turn significantly affects their 
ability to learn and to achieve. The AAUW took a very serious view of its 
findings, publishing them under the title “Shortchanging Girls, Short¬ 
changing America.” 

Not only did the report make headlines around the country, it led to 
hundreds of conferences and community action projects. Politicians, ed¬ 
ucators, and business leaders have been recruited by the AAUW to help 
America’s “shortchanged” girls. Fifty congresspersons responded to the 
alarm by sponsoring a $360 million bill, the Gender Equity in Education 
Act, to deal with the problems raised by the AAUW study. When Pat 
Schroeder introduced the Gender Equity in Education Act before Con¬ 
gress in April 1993, she cited the AAUW report as if it were gospel: 

For too long, the needs of girls have been ignored or overlooked in 
crafting education policy. . . . Today, we know that little girls as 
young as 11 years old suffer from low levels of self-esteem. Where 
9-year-old girls were once confident that they could conquer the 
world, girls at age 11 suddenly begin doubting their worth. They no 
longer like themselves and they begin to question their own abilities. 
. . . The Gender Equity in Education Act will help make schools an 
environment where girls are nurtured and respected, where they can 
learn that their lives are valuable at the same time they leam their 
ABC’s. 4 

Although the self-esteem report is having an enormous impact, a most 
casual glance at its contents suffices to raise grave doubts about its philos¬ 
ophy, methodology, and conclusions. One glaring example is this major 
piece of evidence for the difference in boys’ and girls’ aspirations for 
success: “Self-esteem is critically related to young people’s dreams and 
successes. The higher self-esteem of young men translates into bigger 
career dreams. . . . The number of boys who aspire to glamorous occu¬ 
pations (rock star, sports star) is greater than that of young women at 
every stage of adolescence, creating a kind of ‘glamour gap.’ ” 5 

I did a double take on reading this. A glamour gap ? Most kids do not 
have the talent and drive to be rock stars. The sensible ones know it. 6 
What these responses suggest, and what many experts on adolescent 
development will tell you, is that girls mature earlier than boys, who at 
this age, apparently, suffer from a “reality gap.” 

We’ll soon get to other dubious aspects of the AAUW’s report. But 

The Self-Esteem Study 


first, let’s see how the AAUW promoted it. For it was a model of how 
gender feminist activists tend to use “research” to political advantage. 

When it completed the study in 1991, the AAUW held a blitz of press 
conferences. It distributed thousands of “Call to Action” brochures to its 
membership, to journalists, and to politicians. It also produced a highly 
professional documentary dramatizing the results of the study. The doc¬ 
umentary was shown around the country at community conferences or¬ 
ganized by local AAUW chapters. In the documentary, Anne Bryant, 
executive director of the AAUW, explains why we cannot afford to ignore 
the poll findings: “It is tragic to think about all the potential talent we 
lose. . . . It’s frightening not only for our girls, but for our country. When 
we shortchange girls, we shortchange America.” 7 Dr. David Sadker, an 
education theorist from American University who was interviewed in the 
documentary, offered a grim estimation of what America was losing by 
allowing this situation to persist: “If the cure for cancer is in the mind of 
a girl, there is a chance we will never get it.” 

The AAUW’s findings were no surprise to psychologist Carol Gilligan 
of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Dr. Gilligan, 
who was featured in the AAUW self-esteem video, speaks of how her own 
research had helped her to see that girls experience a “loss of voice” that 
sometimes leads to serious psychological problems such as “depression, 
eating disorders and various kinds of dislocation.” At eight or nine years 
old, she’d found, girls are forthright and self-confident. But as they enter 
adolescence they begin to fade, to retreat. They begin to notice that 
women are undervalued and that the cultural message is “keep quiet.” 
Gilligan and her associates have become convinced that something dread¬ 
ful happens to girls at age thirteen or fourteen. As Gilligan reported to the 
New York Times, “By 15 or 16 that resistance has gone underground. They 
start saying, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.’ They start not 
knowing what they had known.” 8 

In her foreword to the “Call to Action” brochure, AAUW president 
Sharon Schuster makes a direct appeal to the reader on behalf of all the 
“shortchanged girls”: “When you read this report, we ask you, most of 
all, to think of some special girl in your life—a daughter or granddaugh¬ 
ter, a sister or student, a niece or a neighbor. Ask yourself, ‘What can I 
do to make sure that our schools aren’t shortchanging her future?’ ” 9 

In January 1991 the AAUW organized an “Educational Equity Round¬ 
table” for leaders in government, education, and business to begin to 
address the problem of girls’ precipitous loss of confidence. Participants 
included Governor Roy Romer of Colorado and Martha Frick, president 
of the National School Boards Association. Journalists were also invited. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

As Sharon Schuster explains, “There was an impressive—and overwhelm¬ 
ing—commitment by these leaders to address the needs of girls and 
young women.” 10 

The response from the media was gratifying. The AAUW has its aura 
of repute and integrity, so it is perhaps understandable that the news 
reports about its self-esteem study were taken at face value. No one 
suggested that the AAUW’s alarming findings about the plight of the 
nation’s girls might be the product of “advocacy research,” research un¬ 
dertaken with an eye to “proving” conclusions that advocates are ideolog¬ 
ically committed to and that they find politically useful. Reporters who 
might normally seek out alternative points of view did not do so in this 

Despite the sensational and sweeping nature of the findings that girls’ 
self-esteem plummets, as far as I could ascertain, none of the journalists 
who reported on the study interviewed any social scientists to see whether 
the poll that reported this was properly designed and its results properly 
interpreted. Except for Carol Gilligan and her followers, no other experts 
in adolescent psychology were cited by the press. Indeed, in none of these 
stories was a single critic cited, despite the existence of a large body of 
findings and contrary opinions that the AAUW had ignored. Because the 
media made no effort to look beyond the news releases given them by the 
AAUW, it was left to skeptics to come forward on their own. As we shall 
see, some did. 

In the meantime, however, the AAUW’s rhetoric had taken hold. When 
the AAUW initiated its study in 1990, self-esteem was the hot topic of 
the moment. Everyone wanted it; some states had task forces to help 
people get it. Concern about children’s self-image was so high the Chil¬ 
dren’s Museum in Denver installed a “self-esteem comer.” Self-esteem 
was the cure for what ails the country and a ticket to the best-seller list. 11 

Books with titles like Learning to Love Yourself, The Inner Child Work¬ 
book, Co-Dependent’s Guide to the Twelve Steps, and Children of Trauma: 
Recovering Your Discarded Self sold in the millions. A National Council on 
Self-Esteem was established. 12 The New York State Education Department 
published a self-esteem manual that identifies four “components” of self¬ 
esteem. “I am somebody,” “I belong,” “I am competent,” and “I have 
possibilities,” it proclaims, sounding very much like Stuart Smalley on 
“Saturday Night Live” (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog- 
gonit, people like me”). 13 

The charge that the self-esteem of the nation’s girls was being under¬ 
mined was made to order for the times. But was it true? That the report 
was so widely and uncritically credited cannot be taken as a sign of its 

The Self-Esteem Study 


soundness. The journalists and their readers, the concerned politicians 
and their constituents, did not know that the AAUW is yet another para- 
academic organization that has become highly political and ideological in 
recent years. Its charter is broad enough to include gender feminists, 
equity feminists, and nonfeminist women. But its present leadership has 
changed the association into an activist arm of gender feminism. Its cur¬ 
rent group of officers—executive director Anne Bryant, president Sharon 
Schuster, and Alice McKee, president of the AAUW educational founda¬ 
tion—are committed gender feminists who had expectations of what they 
would find when they initiated the self-esteem study. So a cool and 
objective look at the reported findings and the evidence for them is badly 

Here is how the AAUW summarizes the results of the survey in its 
“Call to Action” brochure: 

In a crucial measure of self-esteem, 60 percent of elementary school 
girls and 69 percent of elementary school boys say they are “happy 
the way I am.” But, by high school, girls’ self-esteem falls 31 points 
to only 29 percent, while boys’ self-esteem falls only 23 points to 46 
percent. 14 

Girls are less likely than boys to say they are “pretty good at a lot of 
things.” Less than a third of girls express this confidence, compared 
to almost half the boys. A 10-point gender gap in confidence in their 
abilities increases to 19 points in high school. 15 

The study found boys to be more likely to stick up for themselves in a 
disagreement with a teacher (28 percent of boys, 15 percent of girls); and 
boys are more likely than girls to “believe their career dreams will come 
true.” 16 

The AAUW is happy to accommodate anyone who wants to see the 
“Call to Action” brochure and the “Shortchanging Girls” video: they have 
an 800 number for those who wish to order these and other gender bias 
materials they have developed. These readily available materials summa¬ 
rize the “findings.” Getting hold of the actual Goldberg-Lake self-esteem 
study—the hard data on which all the claims are based—turned out to 
be far more difficult. You cannot order it through the 800 number. It is 
not available in libraries. The only way to get a look at it is to buy it 
directly from the AAUW for $85. I was willing to do that, though it is 
very unusual that a study cited as authoritative by members of the United 
States Congress would be unavailable in any library. Even buying it 
turned out to be a problem, though. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

“Why do you want it?” asked a curious woman in the AAUW office in 
Washington. I said, truthfully enough, that I was doing research for a 
book and would like to review the data. She told me to leave my number 
and someone would get back to me. No one did. I tried again. This time, 
there was a tentative understanding that they would send me the study. 
But first they would send me a letter outlining certain terms. A letter 
eventually came, signed by Anne Bryant. She wrote: “Please send a state¬ 
ment outlining how you plan to use the survey instrument and results, 
along with your payment for the full research report. If your review and 
analysis of the data results in a possible publication or presentation, that 
use of data must receive advance written approval from AAUW.” 

I sent the money and a bland “statement” about my plans. I also used 
the 800 number to order all the high-priced pamphlets, newsletters, and 
summaries and, of course, the video. When the full report finally arrived, 
after several weeks and three more phone calls, I saw immediately why 
AAUW was so cautious. For one thing, it contained nothing like a defi¬ 
nition of self-esteem, or even an informal discussion of what they meant 
by it. 

The concept of self-esteem is generally considered to be unstable and 
controversial, yet few psychologists doubt its central importance. The 
instability and fluidity of the concept makes it ill-suited for a pollster 
approach. Polling firms are good at tallying opinions, but self-esteem is a 
complex personal characteristic, and people’s expressed opinions of 
themselves may have little to do with their sense of inner worth. Yet 
the AAUW/Greenberg-Lake procedures relied almost exclusively on self- 

Self-esteem and a host of related personal characteristics such as self- 
love, humility, pride, and vanity have been under study since Aristotle. 
The scientific study of self-esteem by developmental psychologists and 
sociologists is in its infancy. At the moment, there is little agreement 
about how to define it and far less agreement on how to measure it. 

Oxford University psychiatrist Philip Robson says, “It has even been 
questioned whether self-esteem exists as an independent entity.” 17 What 
is more, different tests produce different results. According to Dr. Robson, 
“The same people do not get high scores on all of them.” Self-reports on 
feelings of inner worth are not consistent over time, nor are they easy to 
interpret. High scores on a self-esteem test, says Dr. Robson, may indicate 
“conformity, rigidity, or insensitivity.” 18 

Jack Block, a research psychologist at the University of California, 
Berkeley, has also criticized self-esteem questionnaires for failing to deter¬ 
mine why people like or dislike themselves. Dr. Block points out that 

The Self-Esteem Study 


someone with high marks on a self-esteem test may 1) be deceiving the 
researchers; 2) be a self-absorbed egoist; or 3) have a healthy sense of 
self. 19 

Professor Susan Harter, another expert on adolescent self-esteem, 
warns of the difficulties in defining and measuring self-esteem: 

Ambiguous definitions of the construct, inadequate measuring in¬ 
struments, and lack of theory have plagued self-esteem research. 
There is now a growing consensus . . . that self-esteem is poorly 
captured by measures that combine evaluations across diverse do¬ 
mains—such as scholastic competence, social acceptance, behav¬ 
ioral conduct, and appearance—into a single summary score. 20 

Setting aside for the moment the very serious problems of definition 
and measurement, we may ask whether researchers in the area of adoles¬ 
cent psychology are in any kind of agreement that girls do experience a 
dramatic drop in self-esteem. 

Bruce Bower, behavioral science editor at Science News, was surprised 
when he read the AAUW’s announcement in the New York Times. He calls 
the AAUW findings controversial, noting that they “have refocused atten¬ 
tion on long-standing questions about the meaning of such studies and 
their implications, if any, for educational reform and . . . psychological 
development.” 21 Bower canvassed the opinion of other researchers, and 
he found that the AAUW’s finding that girls’ self-esteem plummets did 
not square with what most of the experts in adolescent psychology were 
saying. He summarized the discrepancies between the AAUW findings 
and what the experts say in the May 23, 1991, issue of Science News. After 
reading Bower’s article, I talked with several of the experts he cited. 

Barton J. Hirsch, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, 
has found comparable levels of self-esteem in adolescent boys and girls. I 
asked Professor Hirsch what he thought of the AAUW report. “Its findings 
are inconsistent with the recent literature. For a while there was said to 
be a small drop in self-esteem of high and middle school girls—now new 
results show otherwise.” He also cautioned, and most experts in self¬ 
esteem seem to agree, that no one has been able to establish a clear 
correlation between self-esteem and behavior. 22 Yet the AAUW authors 
categorically assert: “Much of the difference between the educational as¬ 
pirations and career goals of girls and boys can be traced to a gender gap 
in self-esteem that widens during their school years.” 23 

Some researchers such as Susan Harter, Jack Block, Joseph Adelson, 
and the late Roberta Simmons say that adolescent girls do experience 


Who Stole Feminism? 

some drop in self-esteem. But their conclusions are nuanced and tenta¬ 
tive: nothing like the dramatic, simplistic, and alarming contentions of 
the AAUW. I asked Susan Harter what she thought of the AAUW study. 
She said, “It was poorly designed and psychometrically unsound.” 

Roberta Simmons in her seminal work on adolescent psychology, Mov¬ 
ing into Adolescence, says that girls experience a temporary drop as they 
go through junior high school, only to rebound once they establish a 
circle of friends. In high school there is a second drop. She says, “We 
don’t know if that last self-esteem drop. . . was temporary or perma¬ 
nent.” 24 

Wendy Wood at Texas A&M University did a statistical comparison of 
ninety-three independent studies on women’s feelings of well-being. 
Bruce Bower has summarized Wood’s research: “In examining these stud¬ 
ies, which focused on well-being and life satisfaction among adult men 
and women, Wood and her colleagues found that women reported both 
greater happiness and more dissatisfaction and depression than men.” 25 

I spoke with Dr. Wood. She claims that what may look like a self¬ 
esteem gender gap may be merely due to a gap in expressiveness. Wood 
and her colleagues believe that girls and women are more aware of their 
feelings and more articulate in expressing them, and so they are more 
candid about their negative emotions in self-reports than males are. “If 
you do not control for this difference, it is very easy to get a very distorted 

Naomi Gerstel, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, faults 
self-esteem surveys—including the AAUW study—for neglecting to in¬ 
terview high school dropouts. More males drop out than females. The 
fact that these boys do not get included in these studies may be creating 
a false picture of boys’ self-esteem. 26 

The Berkeley psychologist Diana Baumrind is skeptical about the reli¬ 
ability of self-reporting altogether. She and her colleagues first measure 
children’s overall achievements and competence. They then rely on 
trained observers to evaluate children’s social and emotional well-being. 
Using objective measures as much as possible, they have found no signif¬ 
icant lasting differences between boys and girls in areas of self-esteem. 27 

Anne Petersen, a University of Minnesota adolescent psychologist, re¬ 
cently summarized the opinion shared by most clinicians and researchers 
working in adolescent psychology: 

It is now known that the majority of adolescents of both genders 
successfully negotiate this developmental period without any major 

The Self-Esteem Study 


psychological or emotional disorder, develop a positive sense of 
personal identity, and manage to forge adaptive peer relationships 
at the same time they maintain close relationships with their fami¬ 
lies. 28 

Roberta Simmons had said very much the same thing: “Most kids come 
through the years from 10 to 20 without major problems and with an 
increasing sense of self-esteem.” 29 

If Petersen and Simmons are right, the AAUW’s contentions are an 
expensive false alarm. In any case, the AAUW is less than candid when it 
speaks of its efforts to review the growing body of research on how girls 
learn. It is doing no such thing. 

William Damon, the Director for the Center for Study of Human De¬ 
velopment at Brown University, took some time to look into the claim 
that teenage girls were suffering a loss of self-esteem. “So far I have been 
unable to find a single article in any refereed journal that actually tests 
this thesis.” He concedes that he did not spend months searching the 
literature. But, he says, if there is such an article, it’s not easy to find. As 
he sees it, the debate over girls’ self-esteem has never taken place among 
researchers. Rather, “the whole thing is being carried on in the court of 
the media.” 

I asked Joseph Adelson, a University of Michigan psychologist and 
editor of the Handbook on Adolescent Psychology, what he thought of the 
AAUW Report on self-esteem. “When I saw the report I thought, ‘This is 
awful. I could prove it is awful, but it’s not worth my time.’ ” 

Given the hazards facing any investigator doing research in the area of 
self-esteem, and given that few adolescent psychologists corroborate the 
AAUW findings, the burden of proof is on the AAUW to show that its 
study was well designed and its findings carefully interpreted. But this is 
precisely what it has not shown. That may explain why the actual data 
for the Greenberg-Lake survey on which the AAUW based its sensational 
conclusions are so hard to come by. In fact, showing that the AAUW 
results are wrong is not as time-consuming as Adelson imagined it to be. 
A careful look at the self-reports quickly reveals the artful ways that the 
questions were asked and the answers tabulated to get the alarming con¬ 
clusions of a national crisis in the self-esteem of adolescent girls. 

The AAUW/Greenberg-Lake’s self-esteem survey asked three thousand 
children to respond to statements such as “I’m happy the way I am,” “I 
like most things about myself,” “I am good at a lot of things,” “My teacher 
is proud of me,” and “I’m an important person.” In its “Call to Action” 


Who Stole Feminism? 

brochure, the AAUW says the responses to such questions offer a “crucial 
measure” of self-esteem. Let us grant that this may be so and consider 
more closely the reported findings on the happiness query: 

The nationwide survey commissioned by AAUW found that 60 per¬ 
cent of elementary school girls and 69 percent of elementary school 
boys say they’re “happy the way I am”—a key indicator of self¬ 
esteem. By high school, girls’ self-esteem falls 31 percent to 29 
percent, while boys’ self-esteem falls only 23 percent to 46 percent 
—an increase from 7 to 17 points in the gender gap on this measure 
of self-esteem. 30 

One can see why any fair-minded person would be thoroughly alarmed 
by such a result. However, even if we accept that self-reports are reliable 
indicators of self-esteem, the claims stated in the brochure are seriously 
misleading. We are only told about how many boys and girls responded 
“always true” to “happy the way I am.” We are not told that this was only 
one o[five possible responses, including “sort of true,” “sometimes true/ 
sometimes false,” “sort of false,” or “always false” and that most responses 
were in the middle ranges. Few child psychologists would consider any 
but the last two responses —or perhaps only the very last one —as a sign of 
dangerously low self-esteem. The data presented to the public by the 
AAUW in all its literature and in its documentary suggest that the majority 
of girls are abnormally lacking in self-esteem. But this is deceptive be¬ 
cause, in addition to the 29 percent of girls who checked “always true,” 
34 percent checked “sort of true” and another 25 percent “sometimes 
true/sometimes false”—a total of 88 percent, compared to 92 percent of 
boys. The AAUW claimed a seventeen-point gender gap in adolescent 

The media, of course, followed the line laid down by the AAUW, 
which carefully and exclusively based its “happy the way I am” report on 
the “always true” respondents, ignoring all other respondents. Relying on 
this, NEA Today, the newspaper of the National Education Association, 
said, “By the time girls are in high school, only 29 percent say they are 
happy with themselves.” 31 

An article in the Chicago Tribune was typical of the response in the 
popular press: “While 60 percent of elementary school girls and 69 per¬ 
cent of boys proclaim themselves ‘happy the way I am,’ by high school 
only 29 percent of girls and 46 percent of boys express such feelings.” 32 

These deceptive figures made their way into Gloria Steinem’s Revolution 
from Within. In fact, she mistakenly reversed the figures for nine-year-old 

The Self-Esteem Study 


boys and girls, making the girls’ drop in self-esteem appear even more 

Even though girls get good grades, learn how to read sooner and 
have an edge over boys in verbal skills, the question we really need 
to ask is: “ What are these girls learning [her emphasis]? According to 
a study commissioned by the American Association of University 
Women and released in 1991, a large part of the lesson is to under¬ 
value oneself. As nine-year-olds, for instance, 67 [sic] percent of 
girls and 60 percent of boys said they were “happy with the way I 
am.” By the time students were in high school, however, only 46 
percent of boys said they felt that way—also a tragedy that needs 
every attention—and the girls had plummeted to 29 percent. 33 

The Women’s Research and Education Institute in Washington, D.C., 
publishes an influential status report on American women called The 
American Woman , 34 “No book on the status of women is more important 
for government officials, members of Congress, and policy makers than 
The American Woman,” says Governor Ann Richards. 35 “This book should 
be on the desk of every person and policy-maker interested in the status 
of women today,” says Senator Barbara Mikulski. Here is how The Amer¬ 
ican Woman reports on the AAUW findings: “Surveying youngsters ages 
9 to 15 in 12 locations across the country, [AAUW] researchers found 
that by the time they are in high school, only 29 percent of girls say they 
are happy with themselves, compared to 46 percent of boys.” 36 Appar¬ 
ently, neither Steinem, the journalists, nor the staff at the Women’s Re¬ 
search and Education Institute looked at the data being used by the 
AAUW. 37 They must have relied instead on the AAUW’s brochure. 

Here is how the AAUW itself would soon be referring to its own 

A nationwide survey commissioned by the American Association of 
University Women (AAUW) in 1990 found that on average 69 per¬ 
cent of elementary school boys and 60 percent of elementary school 
girls reported that they were “happy the way I am”; among high 
school students the percentages were 46 percent for boys and only 
29 percent for girls. 38 

The brochure publicized another misleading conclusion: “Girls are less 
likely than boys to feel [they are] ‘good at a lot of things.’ Less than a 
third of girls express this confidence, compared to almost half the boys. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

A 10-point gender gap in confidence in their abilities increases to 19 
points in high school.” 39 But again the reader is not informed that almost 
half of the high school girls (44 percent) chose the second possible re¬ 
sponse, “sort of true,” which would have given a total of 67 percent girls 
and 79 percent boys who essentially feel they are “good at a lot of things.” 
If the “sometimes true/sometimes false” response is included, the results 
for girls and boys are 95 percent and 98 percent, respectively, an alto¬ 
gether negligible difference. 40 The usual sequence of responses in such 
surveys, by the way, is “always true,” “usually true,” “sometimes true,” 
“rarely true,” and “never true.” Can it be that the researchers suspected 
such answers might not yield useful results? 41 

Why, for that matter, should someone who answers “sometimes true/ 
sometimes false” to “I’m good at a lot of things” be counted as lacking in 
self-confidence? In fact, aren’t the “always true” answers suspect? The 42 
percent of boys who say “always true” to “good at a lot of things” may be 
showing a lack of maturity or reflectiveness, or a want of humility. Simi¬ 
larly, a boy who thinks of himself as “always” “happy the way I am” may 
be suffering from a “maturity gap.” Conversely, it is not necessarily a 
mark of insecurity or low self-esteem to admit to feeling blue or not 
prodigiously proficient some of the time. 

The AAUW/Greenberg-Lake analysts may have been unaware that their 
“survey instrument” was seriously inadequate, and that their pollsters 
might have been measuring something different from self-esteem or self- 
confidence (e.g., maturity). Had the AAUW been less concerned to show 
that girls are being “shortchanged,” it would have supplemented its poll 
by consulting with other experts to arrive at more responsible conclu¬ 

The AAUW study did find areas where boys and girls show nearly the 
same levels of self-confidence, but they do not emphasize these findings 
in the brochure, summary report, or documentary. On the “teacher is 
proud of me” statement, girls scored higher than boys (41 percent said 
“always true” or “sort of true,” compared to 36 percent of boys). Virtually 
the same proportion of boys and girls said “always true” to the “proud of 
my work in school” statement (17 percent of girls, 16 percent of boys), 
and 32 percent girls and 34 percent boys said “sort of true.” 

These results are available to anyone who cares to send in the $85 and 
sign the “Statement of Intent” form. Had the journalists who helped 
advertise the AAUW’s message been less credulous—had they taken the 
time to review how the questionnaire was designed and the results inter¬ 
preted—they would have seen that the study on which it was based was 
a lot of smoke and mirrors. 

The Self-Esteem Study 


When gender feminists like Sharon Schuster, Anne Bryant, and Gloria 
Steinem discuss self-esteem, they assume as a matter of course that 
women are treated in ways that diminish their self-confidence, thereby 
keeping them subordinate to men. It remains only to persuade the public 
that this undermining of women is constantly taking place and that the 
nation’s girls are suffering. The AAUW’s “crucial measure of self-esteem” 
(self-reporting “always true” for “I am happy the way I am”) is offered as 
evidence to confirm that high school girls are being undermined. But if 
we accept this as a “crucial measure,” we find it yields a curious result. 
For it turns out that African-American girls scored much higher on self¬ 
esteem in the AAUW study than even white boys. 

To the “happy the way I am” statement, 58 percent of the African- 
American high school girls say “always true”; 36 percent of white high 
school boys say “always true.” For white high school girls, the figure is 
22 percent. The white boys are fourteen points ahead of the white girls— 
a “gap” the AAUW finds shocking and unacceptable. But on their test, 
the African-American girls lead the white boys by twenty-two points, and 
the white girls by thirty-six points! 

Clearly this finding does not square with the other basic assumption 
that the AAUW made: it claims there is a direct positive correlation 
between self-esteem and academic achievement. In many categories, Afri¬ 
can-American girls are at greater risk (for low grades and dropping out) 
than white girls or boys. 

African-American boys are never mentioned in the brochures and the 
videos. But, if you look carefully enough in the full five-hundred-page 
data report from Greenberg-Lake, you find them. You also see why the 
AAUW buried and ignored the data on these children. The Greenberg- 
Lake data report informs us that African-American boys score highest of 
all on the indexes of self-esteem, “lead[ing] black girls by margins of 10 
to 18 percent on measures of general happiness.” 42 If their data are cor¬ 
rect, about three of every four African-American boys are “always” “happy 
the way I am,” versus one in five white girls. As for the “glamour gap,” 
the African-American boys turn out to be the most confident and ambi¬ 
tious of all. Far more of them plan to become doctors, scientists, gover¬ 
nors, or senators than their white counterparts. Sixty-seven percent said 
yes when asked, “Do you really think you will ever end up being a sports 
star?” 43 

These results must have startled the designers of the survey. They claim 
that self-esteem, as they measured it by the self-reports, is directly and 
positively correlated with future achievement. Isn’t future achievement what 
all the fuss is about? So how is it that those who score highest on the 


Who Stole Feminism? 

AAUW’s self-esteem measure are educationally at risk, while the group 
with the lowest confidence does so well? White girls are getting the better 
grades and going to college in far greater numbers than any other group. 44 

These results undermine either the link the AAUW claims between 
self-esteem and academic performance or the methodology of self-report¬ 
ing. Either way, they vitiate the AAUW’s findings. 

In the report itself, the authors scramble to make sense of these incon¬ 
venient responses. African-American students, they speculate, “have a 
greater tendency to provide [pollsters] the ‘right’ answers to survey ques¬ 
tions on self-esteem. They have learned that others depict their culture as 
self-hating or self-deprecating and strive to put a ‘best foot forward.’ ” 45 
But putting one’s best foot forward is not known to be a racial trait. 
Moreover, why would African-American boys do so more than African- 
American girls? And why wouldn’t that reason account for the discrep¬ 
ancy of responses between white boys and white girls? Once we admit 
such exceptions and explanations, what becomes of the credibility of the 
“survey instrument” for any purpose whatsoever? 

One researcher did try to explain why African-American girls have 
higher self-esteem scores than white girls. Janie Ward speculates that the 
self-esteem of African-American girls is unaffected by their academic per¬ 
formance. “Black girls seem to be maintaining high levels of self-esteem 
by disassociating themselves from school,” she says. 46 But why would 
only African-American girls be so little affected? How do we know that 
the white boys’ high scores are not due to their relative indifference to 
academic worth? Conceptually, too, the idea of a separate “academic self¬ 
esteem,” somehow distinct from self-esteem proper, is incoherent. A 
child’s pride in playing the piano may well contribute to her self-esteem, 
but we would not call this feeling a kind of musical self-esteem. 

If one takes the AAUW’s way of measuring self-esteem seriously, then 
one should now begin to take seriously the suggestion that there is an 
inverse relation between self-esteem reports and success in school, for that 
is what the study actually suggests. Of course, that is exactly the opposite 
of what the AAUW claims. Yet, it is not altogether out of the question: 
Asian children test very much higher than American students in math 
and science, yet American students express far more confidence in their 
math and science abilities than do their Asian counterparts. In other 
words, our children rank near the bottom, but they’re “happy the way 
they are.” 

This brings us to perhaps the most serious failing of the AAUW “call 
to action.” The report begins by telling us that our children cannot thrive 
in the next century unless “they become the best educated people on 

The Self-Esteem Study 


on Earth.” But the education reform movement has missed the point, it 
continues, because “most of this debate has ignored more than half the 
people whose futures are shaped by the schools: girls.” 47 After that, we 
hear no more about the learning gap between American and foreign 
children, but the implication is clear: the learning gap will be bridged 
when we bridge the gender gap. Although that assumption sounds super¬ 
ficially plausible, such facts as we have point to its unlikelihood. 

Professor Harold Stevenson of the University of Michigan is one of 
several researchers who has been studying the differences between Amer¬ 
ican and Asian students in both skills and self-esteem. His influential 
article in Education Digest (December 1992), “Children Deserve Better 
than Phony Self-Esteem,” reported on scholarly research done over many 
years. It did not rely on polls, and it had no preconceived notions on 
what the outcome would be. The AAUW researchers do not cite his work, 
nor was he invited to their roundtable. He has found that though there is 
a serious learning gap between American and foreign children, the Amer¬ 
ican children are unaware of their shortcomings: 

Our University of Michigan research group spent the last decade 
studying the academic performance of American students, and one 
of our most consistent findings is that the academic achievement of 
our students is inferior to that of students in many other societies. 

. . . The low scores of the American students are distressing, but of 
equal concern is the discrepancy between their low levels of perfor¬ 
mance and the positive evaluations they gave of their ability in 
math. 48 

In math, at least, it appears that the vaunted correlation between self¬ 
esteem and achievement does not hold. Instead of a bill called “Gender 
Equity in Education,” we need a bill called “Common Sense in Educa¬ 
tion,” which would oversee the way the government spends money on 
phony education issues. The measure would not need a very big budget, 
but it could save millions by cutting out unneeded projects like the ones 
proposed for raising self-esteem and force us instead to address directly 
the very real problems we must solve if we are to give our students the 
academic competence they need and to which they are entitled. 

Meantime, the feminist alarms over the self-esteem of female adoles¬ 
cents keep sounding. The AAUW ignored the views of many reputable 
experts on adolescent psychology, but it had its own scholar and philos¬ 
opher in Carol Gilligan. Gilligan has written voluminously on adolescent 
girls and their self-esteem. The AAUW’s “Call to Action” brochure in- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

voked her authority in promoting its findings. She is in the video. Ac¬ 
cording to the New York Times, she was also “an advisor on the 
development of questions asked in the survey.” 49 

In her influential book In a Different Voice, Gilligan claims that women 
have special ways of dealing with moral dilemmas; she maintains that, 
being more caring, less competitive, less abstract, and more sensitive than 
men in making moral decisions, women speak “in a different voice.” She 
argues that their culture of nurturing and caring and their habits of 
peaceful accommodation could be the salvation of a world governed by 
hypercompetitive males and their habits of abstract moral reasoning. She 
has since argued that our society silences, denigrates, and squelches wom¬ 
en’s voices and that this often causes serious pathologies. Her recent work 
has placed her at the center of the self-esteem movement. 

Gilligan’s standing is generally higher among gender feminist intellec¬ 
tuals than among scholars at large. As her general popularity has skyrock¬ 
eted, her reputation as a researcher has been attacked. Professionally, 
Gilligan is a social psychologist concentrating on moral development. But, 
for want of empirical evidence, she has failed to convince many of her 
peers of the validity of her theories. Wendy Wood, the specialist in 
women’s psychology at Texas A&M, voices a considered judgment shared 
by many professionals in the field of women’s psychology: “Independent 
research in moral psychology has not confirmed [Gilligan’s] findings.” 

On the contrary, independent research tends to disconfirm Gilligan’s 
thesis that there is a substantive difference in the moral psychology of 
men and women. Lawrence Walker of the University of British Columbia 
has reviewed 108 studies on gender difference in solving moral dilemmas. 
He concludes, “Sex differences in moral reasoning in late adolescence and 
youth are rare.” 50 William Damon (Brown University) and Anne Colby 
(Radcliffe College) point out that though males are viewed as more ana¬ 
lytical and independent, and women more empathetic and tactful, there 
is little evidence to support these stereotypes: “There is very little support 
in the psychological literature for the notion that girls are more aware of 
others’ feelings or are more altruistic than boys. Sex differences in empa¬ 
thy are inconsistently found and are generally very small when they are 
reported.” 51 

In The Mismeasure of Woman, the psychologist Carol Tavris reviews the 
literature on sex differences and moral development. Her assessment 
echoes Walker’s, Wood’s, Damon’s, and Colby’s. Tavris says, “In study 
after study, researchers report no average differences in the kind of moral 
reasoning that men and women apply.” 52 Tavris rejects the “woman is 

The Self-Esteem Study 


better” school of feminism for lack of convincing evidence that women 
are more “planet-saving . .. pacifistic, empathic or earth-loving.” 53 

Even other feminist research psychologists have taken to criticizing 
Gilligan’s findings. Faye Crosby, a psychologist at Smith College, ques¬ 
tions Gilligan’s methodological approach: 

Gilligan referred throughout her book to the information obtained 
in her studies, but did not present any tabulations. Indeed she never 
quantified anything. The reader never learns anything about 136 of 
the 144 people from [one of her three studies], as only 8 are quoted 
in the book. One probably does not have to be a trained researcher 
to worry about this tactic. 54 

Martha Mednick, a Howard University psychologist, refers to a “spate 
of articles” that have challenged the validity of Gilligan’s data. But she 
acknowledges, “The belief in a ‘different voice’ persists; it appears to be a 
symbol for a cluster of widely held social beliefs that argue for women’s 
difference, for reasons that are quite independent of scientific merit.” 55 

Gilligan herself seems untouched by the criticism and shows little sign 
of tempering her theories or her methods of research and reporting. Her 
recent work on the “silenced voice” continues to use the same anecdotal 
method that Crosby and others have criticized. As Gilligan sees them, 
young girls are spontaneous, forthright, and truthful, only to be betrayed 
in adolescence by an acculturation, an acquired “patina of niceness and 
piety” that diminishes their spirit, inducing in them a kind of “self- 
silencing.” 56 

Christopher Lasch, one of Gilligan’s sharper critics, argues that Gilli¬ 
gan’s idealized view of female children as noble, spontaneous, and natu¬ 
rally virtuous beings who are progressively spoiled by a corrupting 
socialization has its roots in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory of education. 
Rousseau, however, sentimentalized boys as well as girls. Lasch insists that 
both Rousseau and Gilligan are wrong. In particular, real girls do not 
change from a Rousseauian ideal of natural virtue to something more 
muted, pious, conformist, and “nice.” On the contrary, when researchers 
look at junior high school girls without preconceptions they are often 
struck by a glaring absence of niceness and piety, including the privileged 
private schools Gilligan studied. Of Gilligan and her associates, Lasch says: 

They would have done better to remind themselves, on the strength 
of their own evidence, that women are just as likely as men to 


Who Stole Feminism? 

misuse power, to relish cruelty, and to indulge the taste for cruelty 
in enforcing conformity. Study of a girls’ school would seem to 
provide the ideal corrective to sentimental views of women’s natural 
gift for nurture and compassion. 57 

Whatever Gilligan’s shortcomings as an empirical psychologist may be, 
they seem not to matter. Her most recent book on the “silenced voice,” 
Meeting at the Crossroads, received an adulatory review from Carolyn 
Heilbrun. Heilbrun concedes that Gilligan’s research has been challenged 
but insists that her contribution remains a “landmark in psychology.” 58 

Indeed, Gilligan remains a feminist icon who “valorized” women by 
arguing for their special gifts and describing their special fragilities. It was 
only natural that the AAUW would turn to her and like feminists for 
“expert” support. Gilligan herself is not an author of the AAUW report. It 
is not easy to determine who the authors are, but in one document we 
find a note thanking Nancy Goldberger and Janie Victoria Ward, “who 
gave us hundreds of hours of expertise and guidance in developing the 
questionnaire and interpreting the poll data.” 59 Gilligan was Ward’s 
teacher and dissertation advisor at the Harvard School of Education. Dr. 
Goldberger, a psychologist at the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, is a 
coauthor of Women’s Way of Knowing, the bible of gynocentric epistemol¬ 
ogy. Ward and Goldberger were probably “sympathetic.” Had the AAUW 
consulted some of the well-known experts in the field cited in Bruce 
Bower’s article in Science News, it is not at all certain that the AAUW 
would have had the clear finding of gender bias it presented to the public. 

The Ms. Foundation declared April 28, 1993, “Take Our Daughters to 
Work Day.” The event was a great success; more than 500,000 girls went 
to work with their mothers or fathers, and the Ms. Foundation expects to 
make it an annual event. It has created a special “Take Our Daughters to 
Work” teacher’s guide, which addresses the question “Why such extra 
effort on behalf of girls?” The teacher’s guide recites the AAUW/Gilligan 
formula: “Recent studies point to adolescence as a time of crisis and loss 
for girls. While most girls are outspoken and self-confident at the age of 
nine, levels of self-esteem plummet... by the time they reach high 
school.” 60 

The Ms. Foundation had originally planned to confine “Take Our 
Daughters to Work Day” to the New York City area. But then Gloria 
Steinem mentioned the event in an interview in Parade magazine in which 
she spoke of girls’ dramatic loss of self-esteem. According to Judy Mann 

The Self-Esteem Study 


of the Washington Post, the event “took off like Mother’s Day.” 61 What 
was Steinem’s galvanizing comment? “At age 11, girls are sure of what 
they know. . . . But at 12 or 13, when they take on the feminine role, they 
become uncertain. They begin to say, T don’t know.’ Their true selves go 
underground.” 62 Steinem added that this makes girls vulnerable to 
depression, teenage pregnancy, and even eating disorders. From the day 
her comments appeared in Parade, the Ms. Foundation says it was inun¬ 
dated with calls—more than five hundred per day. The event quickly 
developed into a national happening. The foundation prepared informa¬ 
tion kits, a teacher’s guide, leaflets, fliers, and pamphlets, even a “mini¬ 
magazine” and T-shirts. The advisory committee established to help 
organize the day included some of the New Feminism’s brightest stars: 
Mario Thomas, Gloria Steinem, Carol Gilligan, Naomi Wolf, and Callie 
Khouri (the scriptwriter of Thelma and Louise). 63 

The theme of the event was that for one day, at least, girls would be 
“visible, valued, and heard.” As for the boys left behind at school, the Ms. 
Foundation suggested they spend the day doing exercises to help them 
understand how our society shortchanges women. 64 The teacher’s guide 
suggests that boys ponder the question “In the classroom, who speaks 
more, boys or girls?” Using “guided imagery,” the teacher is supposed to 
ask them to imagine themselves living inside a box: 

Describe the box to them: its size, airholes and light (if any). Ask 
them to reach out and touch the roof and the sides with their hands. 
Now make the box even smaller. While their eyes are still closed ask 
them: “What if you want to get out of the box and you can’t? . . . 
What do people say to girls to keep them in a box? What happens 
to girls who step outside of the box?” 

The object is to get boys “to experience the limitations defined by 
gender.” 65 

So the girls are off for a fun day with their parents, being “visible, 
valued, and heard,” and the boys are left behind to learn their lesson. I 
am not opposed to the idea of taking a child to work (though I think it 
should be done in the summer, to avoid missing a school day). I am sure 
many parents and daughters had a good experience. But if having chil¬ 
dren join parents for a day at work is a good idea, then boys must not be 
excluded. Of course, boys must learn to be thoughtful and respectful of 
girls, but they are not culprits; they are not silencing girls or lowering 
their self-esteem, and no one should be sending the boys the message that 


Who Stole Feminism? 

they are doing any of these things. A day that singles out the girls inevi¬ 
tably conveys that kind of message. 

The gender feminist self-esteem alarm should not be allowed to be¬ 
come thematic in our public schools. The Ms. Foundation is now making 
an all-out effort to make April 28 an annual girls’ holiday. That should 
not be allowed. Parents and school officials must step in to insist that a 
day with parents must be gender-neutral and nondivisive; it must include 
the sons as well as the daughters. 

Chapter 8 

The Wellesley Report: 
A Gender at Risk 

Th e American Association of University Women had every reason to 
be gratified and exhilarated by the public success of the self-esteem re¬ 
port. It had “proved” that American girls “do not believe in themselves.” 
The association moved quickly to commission a second study. This new 
study would show how schoolgirls are being undermined and point to 
remedies. Its advent was announced by Sharon Schuster: “The survey and 
the roundtable are just the first steps in AAUW’s effort to stimulate a 
national discussion on how our schools—and our entire society—can 
encourage girls to believe in themselves. . . . We have awarded a grant to 
the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women to review the grow¬ 
ing body of research on how girls learn.” 1 

The Wellesley Report was completed in 1992, a year after the self¬ 
esteem report was released. Not surprisingly, it appeared to dramatically 
reinforce the tragic tidings of the earlier report. The AAUW had called 
the self-esteem study “Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America”; they 
called the Wellesley Report “How Schools Shortchange Girls.” 


Who Stole Feminism? 

The AAUW distributed the findings in attractive little booklets and 
pamphlets, providing all interested parties, especially journalists, with 
convenient summaries and highlights that could serve as the basis for 
their stories. Writing the foreword for the new report, Alice McKee, 
president of the AAUW Educational Foundation, repeated and reinforced 
the theme of the AAUW’s first study: “The wealth of statistical evidence 
must convince even the most skeptical that gender bias in our schools is 
shortchanging girls—and compromising our country. . . . The evidence 
is in, and the picture is clear: shortchanging girls—the women of tomor¬ 
row—shortchanges America.” 2 

The Wellesley revelations turned out to be even more newsworthy than 
the Greenberg-Lake poll on self-esteem, generating more than fourteen 
hundred stories by journalists and newscasters. The San Francisco Chron¬ 
icle reported the “Dreadful Waste of Female Talent.” 3 “Powerful Impact 
of Bias Against Girls,” cried the Los Angeles Times. 4 Time magazine in¬ 
formed its readers that “the latest research finds that the gender gap goes 
well beyond boys’ persistent edge in math and science.” 5 The Boston Globe 
emphasized the distress of girls: “From the very first days in school 
American girls face a drum-fire of gender bias, ranging from sexual ha¬ 
rassment to discrimination in the curriculum to lack of attention from 
teachers, according to a survey released today in Washington.” 6 The New 
York Times weighed in with “Bias Against Girls Is Found Rife in Schools, 
with Lasting Damage.” 7 

The AAUW was quick to seize on the largesse provided by a coopera¬ 
tive and trusting press. Most of the press stories cited above were re¬ 
printed in brochures showing how “AAUW is making headlines.” The 
whole of Time magazine’s adulatory article became part of the AAUW’s 
promotional packet. 

Once again, the release of a sensational AAUW study was the occasion 
for a gathering of people who would be influential in the association’s call 
for action on the federal level. On April 27-29, 1992, the Council on 
Foundations, an organization of leaders of the most powerful philan¬ 
thropic organizations in America, met at the Fountainbleau Hilton Resort 
in Miami Beach. The AAUW and Wellesley feminist researchers held a 
wine and cheese party for the philanthropists—complete with hand¬ 
somely produced information kits that announced the Wellesley results, 
hailing their significance and pleading the urgent need for funding. Susan 
Faludi delivered a keynote address on “the undeclared war against Amer¬ 
ican women.” 

The next step was already in the works. The $360 million “Gender 
Equity in Education” bill was introduced in Congress in April of 1993 by 

The Wellesley Report 


the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. 8 Among the 
bill’s sponsors were Patricia Schroeder, Olympia Snowe, Susan Molinari, 
Patsy Mink, Connie Morelia, Nita Lowey, Dale Kildee, Lynn Woolsey, 
Cardiss Collins, Jolene Unsoeld, and Louise Slaughter. The Gender Equity 
in Education Act (H.R. 1793) would establish a permanent and well- 
funded gender equity bureaucracy. It calls for an Office of Women’s 
Equity within the Department of Education, charged with “promoting 
and coordinating women’s equity policies, programs, activities and initia¬ 
tives in all federal education programs and offices.” 

Politically, a bill calling for gender equity would seem to have clear 
sailing apart from any merits it might or might not have. On the one 
hand, it offered some members of Congress a welcome opportunity to 
show they were sensitive to women’s issues. On the other hand, the 
dangers of challenging the AAUW or the Wellesley College Center for 
Research on Women were obvious. 

Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder cited the Wellesley Report in intro¬ 
ducing the bill. For her, the report was an unquestioned source of truth: 
our nation’s girls are being systematically undermined, and Congress 
must act. In September of 1993, Senators Edward Kennedy, Tom Harkin, 
Carol Moseley-Braun, Paul Simon, and Barbara Mikulski introduced a 
Senate version of the Gender Equity in Education Act. Referring to the 
Wellesley Report, Senator Kennedy said: [It] “refutes the common as¬ 
sumption that boys and girls are treated equally in our educational sys¬ 
tem. Clearly they are not.” 9 

The officers of the powerful foundations who had been feted by the 
AAUW in Miami were represented by Walteen Grady Truely, who ap¬ 
peared before the congressional subcommittee to argue for the Gender 
Equity in Education Act. She duly pointed out that “girls’ self-esteem 
plummets between pre-adolescence and the 10th grade.” 10 Like Pat 
Schroeder, Olympia Snowe, Senator Kennedy, and others, Ms. Truely 
appears to have trusted the AAUW brochures. 

Everyone expects the bill to pass. The National Council for Research 
on Women was happy to report the AAUW’s success as an inspiring 
example of how women’s research can lead directly to congressional 

Last year a report by the American Association of University Women 
(AAUW) documented serious inequities in education for girls and 
women. As a result of that work, an omnibus package of legislation, 
the Gender Equity in Education Act (H.R. 1793), was recently intro¬ 
duced in the House of Representatives. . . . The introduction of H.R. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

1793 is a milestone for demonstrating valuable linkages between 
feminist research and policy in investigating gender discrimination 
in education. 11 

That the linkages are of value to those doing the research is unques¬ 
tionable. What is highly questionable is the value and integrity of the 
research and the way the advocates have deployed the “findings” to acti¬ 
vate the United States Congress. 

Are girls really being insidiously damaged by our school systems? That 
question actually remains to be investigated. Everyone knows we need to 
improve our schools, but are the girls worse off than the boys? If one does 
insist on focusing on who is worse off, then it doesn’t take long to see 
that, educationally speaking, boys are the weaker gender. Consider that 
today 55 percent of college students are female. In 1971, women received 
43 percent of the bachelor’s degrees, 40 percent of the master’s degrees, 
and 14 percent of the doctorates. By 1989 the figures grew to 52 percent 
for B.A.’s, 52 percent for M.A.’s, and 36 percent for doctoral degrees. 
Women are still behind men in earning doctorates, but according to the 
U.S. Department of Education, the number of doctorates awarded to 
women has increased by 185 percent since 1971. 12 

The Wellesley study gives a lot of attention to how girls are behind in 
math and science, though the math and science test differentials are small 
compared to large differentials favoring girls in reading and writing. On 
the National Assessment of Education Progress Tests (NAEP), adminis¬ 
tered to seventeen-year-olds in 1990, males outperformed females by 
three points in math and eleven points in science. The girls outperformed 
boys by thirteen points in reading and twenty-four points in writing. 13 

Girls outnumber boys in all extracurricular activities except sports and 
hobby clubs. Almost twice as many girls as boys participate in student 
government, band and orchestra, and drama or service clubs. More girls 
work on the school newspapers and yearbooks. More are members of 
honor and service societies. 14 Boys far outnumber girls in sports, but that 
gap is narrowing each year. In 1972, only 4 percent of girls were in high 
school athletic programs. By 1987 the figure was up to 26 percent, more 
than a sixfold increase. 15 

On the purely academic front, progress continues apace. The UCLA 
Higher Education Research Institute’s annual survey of college freshmen 
shows more women (66 percent) than men (63 percent) planning to 
pursue advanced degrees. 16 The UCLA data show a tripling in the per- 

The Wellesley Report 


centage of women aiming for higher degrees in less than twenty-five years. 
As the institute’s director, Alexander Astin, notes, “To close such a wide 
gap in the relatively short span of two decades is truly remarkable.” David 
Merkowitz of the American Council on Education agrees: “If you want a 
long-term indicator of major social change, this is one.” But indicators 
that girls are doing well are not the stuff of the Wellesley Report. 

The report illegitimately bolsters its “shortchanged girls” thesis by 
omitting all comparisons of boys and girls in areas where boys are clearly 
in trouble. In a study of self-reports by high school seniors, the U.S. 
Department of Education found that more boys than girls cut classes, fail 
to do homework assignments, had disciplinary problems, had been sus¬ 
pended, and had been in trouble with the police. 17 Studying transcripts 
of 1982 high school graduates, the Department of Education found girls 
outperforming boys in all subjects, from math to English to science. 18 It 
also learned that in all racial and ethnic groups, “females were generally 
more likely than males to report their parents wanted them to attend 
college.” 19 

The Wellesley researchers looked at girls’ better grades in math and 
science classes and concluded that the standardized tests must be biased. 
Girls get better grades, but boys are doing better on the tests. But their 
conclusion would have had more credibility had they also considered the 
possibility that there could be a grading bias against boys. 

According to the 1992 Digest of Educational Statistics, more boys drop 
out. Between 1980 and 1982, 19 percent of males and 15 percent of 
females between the tenth and twelfth grade dropped out of school. Boys 
are more likely to be robbed, threatened, and attacked in and out of 
school. Just about every pathology—including alcoholism and drug 
abuse—hits boys harder. 20 According to the Wellesley Report, “adoles¬ 
cent girls are four to five times more likely than boys to attempt sui¬ 
cide.” 21 It mentions parenthetically that more boys actually die. It does 
not say that five times as many boys as girls actually succeed in killing 
themselves. For boys fifteen to twenty-four the figure is 21.9 per 100,000; 
for girls it is 4.2 per 100,000. The adult suicide rate is not very different. 
In the United States in 1990, 24,724 men and 6,182 women committed 
suicide. 22 What would the Wellesley investigators and other advocates 
have made of these statistics were the numbers reversed? 

The tribulations of schoolboys are not an urgent concern of the lead¬ 
ership of the AAUW; its interest is in studies that uncover bias against 
girls and women. For details on how American girls are suffering from 
inequitable treatment in the nation’s classrooms, the Wellesley investiga¬ 
tors relied heavily on the expertise of Myra and David Sadker of the 


Who Stole Feminism? 

American University School of Education, who had already found just the 
kind of thing the AAUW was concerned about: “In a study conducted by 
Myra and David Sadker, boys in elementary and middle school called out 
answers eight times more often than girls. When boys called out, teachers 
listened. But when girls called out, they were told to ‘raise your hand if 
you want to speak.’ ” 23 The telling difference in “call-outs” has become a 
favorite with those who seek to show how girls are being cheated. Pat 
Schroeder faithfully echoed the claim in introducing the Gender Equity 
in Education Act: “Teachers are more likely to call on boys and to give 
them constructive feedback. When boys call out answers, teachers tend 
to listen to their comments. But girls who call out their answers are 
reprimanded and told to raise their hands.” 24 

The Sadkers have been observing teachers in the classroom for more 
than two decades, gathering their data on gender bias. Convinced that 
“America’s schools cheat girls,” as the subtitle of their new book, Failing 
at Fairness, claims, they have devised strategies for ridding teachers (a 
majority of whom happen to be women) of their unconscious gender bias 
that the Sadkers feel is at the root of the problem. The Sadkers’ latest 
book describes their work as the “backbone” of the Wellesley Report, and 
they are among the report’s chief authors. Certainly their work provided 
key support for the report’s claim that “whether one looks at preschool 
classrooms or university lecture halls, at female teachers or male teachers, 
research spanning the past twenty years consistently reveals that males 
receive more teacher attention than do females.” 25 

Teachers tend not to be surprised to hear that boys in their classes may 
be getting more attention—boys tend to be rowdier in the classrooms 
and to require more supervision. But is that a sign or form of discrimina¬ 
tion? Despite their decades of attention to the problem, the Sadkers sup¬ 
ply us with no plausible evidence that girls are losing out because teachers 
are less attentive to them. Instead, they argue that it stands to reason: 
“The most valuable resource in a classroom is the teacher’s attention. If 
the teacher is giving more of that valuable resource to one group, it should 
come as no surprise that group shows greater educational gains.” 26 

As we have seen, however, the evidence suggests that it is boys who 
are suffering an overall academic deficit. Boys do perform slightly better 
on standardized math tests, but even that gap is small, and closing. In the 
1991 International Assessment of Educational Progress (1AEP), the Edu¬ 
cational Testing Service found that on a scale of 100, thirteen-year-old 
American girls average 1 point below boys. And this slight gap is alto¬ 
gether negligible in comparison with the gap that separates American 

The Wellesley Report 


students from their foreign counterparts. Taiwanese and Korean girls are 
more than 16 points ahead of American boys on this same test. 27 

In addition to measuring abilities, the Educational Testing Service 
asked students around the world whether or not they thought math was 
“for boys and girls equally.” In most countries, including the United 
States, almost all students agreed it was. The exceptions were Korea, 
Taiwan, and Jordan. In Korea, 27 percent said that math was more for 
boys; for Taiwan and Jordan, the figure was 15 percent. “Interestingly,” 
the report notes, “the three countries that were more likely to view math¬ 
ematics as gender linked. . . did not exhibit significant differences in 
performance by gender.” 28 And girls in two of those countries—Korea 
and Taiwan—outperformed American boys. 

From the LAEP at least, it appears that gender-linked attitudes about 
math are not strongly correlated to performance. The Educational Testing 
Service did find one key variable positively related with achievement 
throughout the world: the amount of time students spent on their math 
homework—irrespective of gender. 

Despite this, the Wellesley Report sticks to its guns. Tackling the 
gender problem is the first priority in making America educationally 
strong for the global economy of the future. 

In any case, gender inequity in the form of teacher inattention to girls 
is what the Sadkers’ research is all about, and many of the Wellesley 
conclusions stand or fall with their expertise and probity. The Sadkers, 
who collected data from more than one hundred fourth-, sixth-, and 
eighth-grade classes, reportedly found that boys did not merely get more 
reprimands but received more feedback of all kinds: “Classrooms were 
characterized by a more general environment of inequity: there were the 
‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ of teacher attention. . .. Male students received 
significantly more remediation, criticism, and praise than female stu¬ 
dents.” 29 

How much is that? I wondered. And how well, if at all, is the disparity 
in attention correlated with a disparity in student achievement? I was 
curious to read the Sadkers’ research papers. The Wellesley Report leads 
readers to the Phi Delta Kappan for technical details on the Sadkers’ 
findings. But the Phi Delta Kappan is not a research journal, and the 
Sadkers’ publications in it are very short—less than four pages each, 
including illustrations and cartoons—and merely restate the Sadkers’ 
claims without giving details concerning the research that backs them up. 

In two exhaustive searches in the education data base (ERIC), I was 
unable to find any peer-reviewed, scholarly articles by the Sadkers in 


Who Stole Feminism? 

which their data and their claims on classroom interactions are laid out. 
The Sadkers themselves make no reference to such articles in the Welles¬ 
ley Report, nor in their 1991 review of the literature on gender bias in 
the Review of Research in Education, nor in Failing at Fairness. The Welles¬ 
ley Report does refer readers to the final reports on the Sadkers’ unpub¬ 
lished studies on classroom inequities. The Sadkers did two of these, in 
1984 and 1985, both supported by government grants. The first is called 
Year Three: Final Report, Promoting Effectiveness in Classroom Instruction 
(funded by the National Institute of Education, 1984); the other is called 
Final Report: Faculty Development for Effectiveness and Equity in College 
Teaching (sponsored by the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary 
Education—FIPSE—1985). Since the conclusions of the Wellesley Re¬ 
port rely on studies like these, I was determined to get hold of them. But 
I found it even harder to get my hands on them than on the AAUW’s 
research on self-esteem. 

The 1985 FIPSE study seems to have vanished altogether. After ex¬ 
haustive library and computer searches, I called the Department of Edu¬ 
cation, which informed me it no longer had a copy. The librarian at the 
Widener Library at Harvard University did a computer search as thorough 
and high-tech as any I have ever seen. Finally, she requested it from the 
Library of Congress. “If they do not have it, no one does,” she said—and 
they did not. 

In the meantime, one of my undergraduate assistants called David 
Sadker himself to ask how to find it. He told her that he did not have a 
copy and urged her to have a look at the article in the Phi Delta Kappan. 
We had come full circle. 

I did find the other study: Year Three: Final Report, Promoting Effective¬ 
ness in Classroom Instruction. It was available in the Education Library at 
Harvard University on microfilm, for twenty-five cents per page. Holding 
the 189 pages photocopied from the microfilm, I wondered if I might be 
the only person in the world—besides the Sadkers and some of their 
graduate students—to have looked at its contents. Yet it contains the data 
behind the contention, now on the tip of many politicians’ tongues, that 
girls are suffering an attention gap that seriously compromises their edu¬ 

What had the Sadkers found? They and their assistants visited 
hundreds of elementary classrooms and observed the teachers’ interac¬ 
tions with students. They identified four types of teacher comments: 
praise (“Good answer”), acceptance (“Okay”), remediation (“Give it an¬ 
other try; think a littler harder this time”), and criticism (“Wrong”). They 
determined that fewer than 5 percent of teachers’ interactions constituted 

The Wellesley Report 


criticism. Praise accounted for about 11 percent of interaction; 33 percent 
was remediation. The remainder (approximately 51-56 percent) was 
bland acceptance. 30 Although boys and girls got close to the same amount 
of bland acceptance (“Okay”), boys got a larger share of the other cate¬ 
gories. The exact number is difficult to determine from the data. In their 
many published articles, the Sadkers generally do not specify the actual 
size of the difference, but instead make claims about discrepancies with¬ 
out specifying them: “Girls received less than their share in all cate¬ 
gories.” 31 

In the kind of observations the Sadkers and their researchers made, the 
chances of observer bias in selecting the data are extraordinarily high. It 
is all too easy to “find” just what one believes is there. As I have noted, 
the Wellesley Report relies strongly on research by the Sadkers that pur¬ 
portedly found boys calling out eight times more often than girls, with 
boys being respectfully attended to, while the relatively few girls who 
called out were told to “please raise your hands if you want to speak.” 
Professor Jere Brophy of Michigan State, who is perhaps the most promi¬ 
nent scholar working in the area of classroom interaction, is suspicious of 
the Sadkers’ findings on call-outs. “It is too extreme,” he says. “It all 
depends on the neighborhood, the level of the class, and the teacher. 
Many teachers simply do not allow call-outs.” I asked him about the 
Sadkers’ claim that boys get more careful and thoughtful teacher com¬ 
ments. According to Brophy, any differences that are showing up are 
negligibly slight. Did he see a link between the ways teachers interact 
with boys and girls and their overall achievement? “No, and that is why I 
have never tried to make that much of the sex difference findings.” 

For details of the Sadkers’ findings, the Wellesley Report refers to 
research reported in a 1981 volume of a journal called The Pointer. 32 The 
Pointer is now defunct, but when I finally got to read the article I was 
surprised to see that what it said about classroom discipline in particular 
was not, in my view, at all indicative of bias against girls. This portion of 
the Pointer article focuses not on “call-outs,” but on how teachers repri¬ 
mand boys and girls differently, emphasizing that boys are disciplined 
more than girls. Here is what the Sadkers and their coauthor, Dawn 
Thomas, found: 

Boys, particularly low-achieving boys, receive eight to ten times as 
many reprimands as do their female classmates. . . . When both girls 
and boys are misbehaving equally, boys still receive more frequent 
discipline. Research shows that when teachers are faced with disrup¬ 
tive behavior from both boys and girls, they are over three times as 


Who Stole Feminism? 

likely to reprimand the boys than the girls. Also, boys are more 
likely to get reprimanded in a harsh and public manner and to 
receive heavy penalties; girls are more likely to get reprimanded in 
a softer, private manner and to receive lighter penalties. 33 

The article says nothing at all about “call-outs,” and nothing about girls 
being told to raise their hands if they want to speak. Yet it is cited as the 
source for the Report’s oft-repeated claims about this matter. Thinking 
that I must be in error, I looked at a 1991 article in the Review of Research 
in Education by the Sadkers themselves, in which they, too, cite the re¬ 
search reported in the Pointer article: 

D. Sadker, Sadker, and Thomas (1981) reported that boys were 
eight times more likely than girls to call out in elementary- and 
middle-school classrooms. When boys called out, the teacher’s most 
frequent response was to accept the call-out and continue with the 
class. When girls called out, a much rarer phenomenon, the teach¬ 
er’s most typical response was to remediate or correct the inappro¬ 
priate behavior with comments such as “in this class, we raise our 
hands.” 34 

But the Sadkers are misquoting themselves; The Pointer contains no 
such findings. Support for the Sadkers’ claim about “call-outs” may well 
exist. But putting aside both the Wellesley Report and the Sadkers’ appar¬ 
ent error in citing the Pointer article for support, one can note that the 
claim about “call-outs” keeps the drums of outrage beating and gives fuel 
to the notion that American girls “spend years learning the lessons of 
silence in elementary, secondary, and college classrooms,” after which 
they find it difficult or impossible to “regain their voices.” 35 

Suppose, indeed, that teachers do call on boys more often. There is no 
clear evidence that girls lose because of that. Girls are getting the better 
grades, they like school better, they drop out less, and more of them go 
to college. If teacher attention were crudely to be correlated with student 
achievement, we would be led to the perverse conclusion that more 
attention causes poorer performance. 

In any case, I could find no study showing a direct relation between 
teacher and student interaction and student output. Looking back at the 
Sadkers’ Year Three: Final Report, I notice that they, too, acknowledge that 
“at this point it is not possible to draw direct cause and effect links 
between teacher behavior and student outcomes.” 36 

The Wellesley Report cites other studies supposedly corroborative of 

The Wellesley Report 


the claim that teachers’ inattention inequitably shortchanges America’s 
schoolgirls. But again, the sources cited do not make the case. For exam¬ 
ple, a government study entitled Final Report: A Study of Sex Equity in 
Classroom Education by Marlaine Lockheed, an education specialist in the 
Education and Social Policy Department at the World Bank, does say that 
boys get more teacher reaction; however, in summing up her findings, 
Lockheed denies that this is to be interpreted in terms of gender inequity: 
“Data from the study do not support the notion that classroom teachers 
play a major role in creating and maintaining inequities. Despite findings 
that boys are more disruptive (and thus receive more teacher attention), 
data suggest that teachers respond to the nature of the student behavior 
rather than to student gender.” 37 

Another study cited in the report warns that “at this point, all com¬ 
ments on the potential effects of various patterns of teacher-child behavior 
on social and cognitive development are highly speculative.” 38 The report 
also includes a reference to a 1989 survey by M. Gail Jones. 39 The article 
does not itself contain any original data, but rather gives a brief summary 
of twenty articles on bias in classroom interaction. From Jones’s survey, 
the studies—some better designed than others—appear to be inconclu¬ 
sive. Many researchers find more teacher interaction with the rowdier 
boys—but none have shown that it harms the girls. A 1987 study by K. 
Tobin and P. Garnett had found that a few “target” students in the science 
classroom tended to dominate classroom interactions, and these targets 
tended to be males. 40 But a further study of target students by Jones 
herself found that “although there were more male than female target 
students, the female target students averaged more interactions per class 
session than male target students.” 41 That kind of result is typical of the 
status of research in this area. It makes one wonder whether the study of 
student-teacher interaction, using gender as a key category and “uncon¬ 
scious bias” as a possible parameter, is worth all the trouble. 

Oddly enough, the authors of the Wellesley Report do mention, almost 
as an aside, that “new evidence indicates that it is too soon to state a 
definitive connection between a specific teacher behavior and a particular 
student outcome.” 42 The report does not say what this new evidence is 
and never mentions it again. Nor are we told why the existence of such 
evidence does not vitiate the report’s sensational conclusion that gender 
bias favoring boys is rife and its correction a matter of national urgency. 
To put it mildly, the literature on the subject of classroom bias seems 
confusing and not a little confused. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

The advocacy research on classroom bias would not matter much were 
it not for the lack of skepticism on the part of legislators who now see 
gender equity in the classroom as a critical national issue. The testimony 
of Anne Bryant, the executive director of the AAUW, before Congress in 
April 1993 in favor of the Gender Equity in Education Act is typical of 
what it has heard: 

Myra and David Sadker of the American University and other re¬ 
searchers have extensively documented gender bias in teacher- 
student interactions. . . . Teachers tend to give girls less attention, 
with some studies showing teachers directing 80 percent of all their 
questions to boys. 43 

In her presentation, Ms. Bryant indicated that the AAUW had worked 
with the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues to develop the bill 
and vowed that “we will continue to work with you as the omnibus 
educational equity package moves through Congress.” 44 

It was a close relationship. The wording of the bill echoed that of the 
AAUW brochure: 

Research reveals that, at all classroom levels, girls receive different 
treatment from teachers than do boys. ... To address this problem, 
this legislation would create programs to provide teacher training in 
identifying and eliminating inequitable practices in the classroom. 45 

Members of Congress have competent and intelligent staffs who are 
accustomed to checking up on all kinds of claims made by special interest 
groups. One hopes they will look into the data behind the AAUW and 
Wellesley brochures before voting millions of dollars for the Gender Eq¬ 
uity Act and reaping us the bitter fruits of the AAUW’s irresponsible and 
divisive initiative. 

Because of the key role the Sadkers were playing in the AAUW and 
Wellesley initiatives, I was curious to find out more about them. The 
opportunity came when I was invited to participate in a discussion of 
gender bias in the schools on the PBS radio show “Talk of the Nation.” 46 
The producer explained that there would be four of us: the Sadkers, 
Sharon Steindam, a school administrator from Arlington, Virginia, and 
me. I knew nothing about Ms. Steindam, but the PBS producer told me 
she had some familiarity with the Sadkers’ gender bias workshops and 

The Wellesley Report 


was prepared to discuss the difficulties of applying their recommenda¬ 
tions in the classroom. For my part, I was grateful to have the opinion of 
an experienced educator. 

Once on the air, the Sadkers held forth on their ideas. I raised ques¬ 
tions about their research methods and conclusions. After a while, the 
mediator, Ira Glass, introduced Dr. Steindam as someone who was pre¬ 
pared to talk about “some of the problems of being attuned to gender bias 
in the classroom” (his emphasis). 

But Dr. Steindam had no problem to report. She had only the highest 
praise for the Sadkers’ program and she told us how “aghast” teachers 
were to discover how sexist they had been. Ira Glass clearly had not 
expected this response. He said: “Now were there problems implementing 
it (his emphasis)?” Again she raved on about how enlightening the work¬ 
shops had been. She was pleased that the state of Virginia had given a 
“$5,000 or $10,000 grant to fund the Sadkers’ workshop” and assured us 
the money was “absolutely minimal.” 

After the program aired, my phone rang: it was a colleague of the 
Sadkers from American University. He told me that Ms. Steindam was 
not the objective outsider she appeared to be on the PBS show. She had 
been a student of the Sadkers and had written her doctoral thesis with 
them. She had even coauthored an article with them called “Gender 
Equity and Educational Reform.” 47 

I could not believe that PBS knew about this relationship without 
telling me before the show, so I called Ira Glass. He knew that Ms. 
Steindam was acquainted with the Sadkers’ training methods but had no 
idea she was their colleague and coauthor. 

The professor from American University was skeptical of the Sadkers’ 
data-gathering techniques in general. “They, or their graduate students, 
sit in classrooms and tally up how many times teachers praise, criticize, 
etc., boys versus girls. The possibilities for subjective interpretation are 

He also told me about his encounter with one of the Sadkers’ students, 
who was doing research for her own thesis: 

A doctoral student of theirs used one of my classes in her research. 

At the end of her first visit, she said, “You are screwing up my data.” 
When I showed surprise, she said, “Yes, you’re one of the control 
classes and you’re supposed to show bias but you don’t.” She came 
to that class two more times, and each time she discovered more 
bias. In fact, the last time she observed, the numbers looked so 
lopsided and not at all reflective of the way the class went, I asked 


Who Stole Feminism? 

my graduate assistant to take a sample poll of students to see how 
their recollections jibed with the numbers she wrote down. In every 
case, the male students recalled being called on far fewer times, and 
the female students several more times than her numbers indicated. 

I am distrustful of such research. 

Something else happened during the PBS show that increased my own 
doubt about such research methods. Halfway into the program, a woman 
named Lisa called in. She identified herself as a feminist and proceeded 
to admonish Ira Glass, the very polite and respectful PBS moderator, for 
interrupting Myra and me “seven times” and David Sadker, the lone male, 
“not at all.” Glass was clearly shaken by this attack. David Sadker was 
happy to have this neat confirmation of his thesis. “Lisa is right,” he said, 
and proceeded to give a brief lecture on how many more times women 
are interrupted than men. 

I went back to the PBS tape with a stopwatch. Up to the point Lisa 
called, David Sadker had spoken for a total of two minutes, and Ms. 
Sadker and 1 had spoken for six minutes each. True, we were interrupted 
more—but we had talked three times as much! Glass interrupted Mr. 
Sadker approximately once every fifty-two seconds. He interrupted Ms. 
Sadker and me once every ninety-three seconds. In effect, Mr. Glass had 
interrupted his male guest nearly twice as often as he had interrupted his 
female guests. Furthermore, whereas an interrupted Mr. Sadker lapsed 
into silence, Ms. Sadker and I both insisted on finishing what we were 

On April 7, 1992, NBC News’ “Dateline” with Jane Pauley and Stone 
Phillips had Myra and David Sadker on as guests. Ms. Pauley began: 

The [Wellesley] report cites data compiled over the last decade by a 
husband-and-wife research team. Drs. David and Myra Sadker of 
American University are the nation’s leading experts on gender bias. 
We hired them as consultants to observe Miss Lowe [a teacher] and 
analyze our videotape for evidence of bias against girls. 48 

A “Dateline” crew had filmed Ms. Lowe’s elementary school class for 
several hours. A few minutes of this were shown. In one scene children 
were working quietly at their desks, and Ms. Lowe was moving from one 
boy to the next making brief, thoughtful comments. She then went on to 
a girl but said nothing of consequence to her. In a voice-over, Ms. Pauley 
excitedly pointed out, “Remember, she knows our cameras are there, and 

The Wellesley Report 


she knows we are looking for gender bias.” Pauley was visibly stunned by 
what she regarded as Ms. Lowe’s sexist behavior: “So boys are getting the 
message that what they have to say is important, and girls begin to 
conclude just the opposite, with serious consequences.” 

I called Ms. Lowe. She agrees with the goals of the Sadkers’ research 
and believes teachers may exhibit unconscious bias. She herself took part 
in a teachers’ presentation in support of the Gender Equity in Education 
Act. Nevertheless, she felt that the “Dateline” program was a sham. “That 
class was boy-heavy,” she said. “Of course I called on more boys. A good 
documentary should tell you the proportion of boys to girls in the class. 
There were four or five more boys than girls.” Moreover, she pointed out, 
the “Dateline” crew had filmed her for eight to ten hours, but only a few 
minutes were shown. Of course it was possible to find in all that footage 
some small sequence that appeared to show bias. “By that method,” Ms. 
Lowe observed derisively, “they could document most anything.” (The 
segment, by the way, aired just after NBC had weathered the embarrass¬ 
ment of airing a “documentary” on the dangers of GM trucks whose gas 
tanks were located on the side. It turned out that an NBC crew had fitted 
a truck with an explosive and then graphically “showed” how impact 
caused the fuel tank to explode without explaining how the footage had 
been rigged.) 

Ms. Lowe told me that her fifth-graders were incensed by what “Date¬ 
line” had made of the long hours of filming. The kids knew there were 
more boys than girls in the class. Why wasn’t that made clear, they 
wondered. Their general feeling was that “Dateline” was stretching to 
drive home a message. I asked Ms. Lowe how the “Dateline” staff and Ms. 
Pauley had happened to choose her school to film. Ms. Lowe informed 
me that the contact was made through Dr. Sharon Steindam, one of her 
school administrators who had worked with the Sadkers. 

“Dateline” did interview one skeptic. Ms. Pauley asked Diane Ravitch, 
then assistant secretary of education under Lamar Alexander, what she 
thought of the Wellesley Report. Ms. Ravitch told Pauley all about the 
overwhelming data that show boys to be in serious trouble. She spoke 
about dropout rates, the grading gap that favors girls, the far greater 
number of boys with learning disabilities. According to Ravitch, Pauley 
showed no interest in the boys’ plight but kept after her to concede that 
girls were suffering from gender bias. When it became clear that Ravitch 
was not going to capitulate, Pauley asked her, “Well, what if people believe 
there is bias?” Ms. Ravitch, by then nettled, retorted, “If people believe 
this is a serious problem, they should send their daughters to single-sex 


Who Stole Feminism? 

schools.” All that aired of her comments was that isolated exasperated 
remark. 49 

No fewer than fifty members of Congress sent a letter to Lamar Alex¬ 
ander, professing themselves outraged by Ravitch’s comment, and they 
cited the AAUW/Wellesley report “How Schools Shortchange Girls” 
to contradict her. They demanded that the secretary take serious steps 
with regard to Ms. Ravitch. The letter also put the secretary on notice: 
if he opposed the Gender Equity in Education Act, there would be fire¬ 

Stone Phillips may well have been right when he said on a recent 
“Dateline” update on the Gender Equity in Education Act, “With women 
playing a bigger role than ever in Washington .. . this may be one bill 
immune from congressional gridlock.” 50 But the women who are playing 
a bigger role are not necessarily members of Congress; they are more 
likely to be the determined women of organizations like the AAUW and 
the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. 

Jane Pauley was clearly moved by the Wellesley Report. Her husband, 
Garry Trudeau, was too; he used his “Doonesbury” column to popularize 
its findings. It is understandable that Ms. Pauley and Mr. Trudeau should 
assume that the Wellesley scholars and the AAUW had been fair and 
competent in their research. To Pauley and Trudeau, as to most other 
intelligent and informed Americans, Wellesley and the AAUW are syn¬ 
onymous with professional integrity and scholarly authority. 

On the other hand, the American public relies on Ms. Pauley’s reputa¬ 
tion as an investigative reporter to be accurate—even on issues that 
passionately concern her. Ironically, the title of her gender bias documen¬ 
tary was “Failing at Fairness.” 

I have had yet another brush with the Sadkers. On the afternoon of 
Monday, January 10, 1994, l received a call from a producer of the Oprah 
Winfrey show. The Sadkers would be appearing on the show on Thursday 
morning to discuss their findings on how girls are being shortchanged in 
the nation’s schools. I was invited to join them on the show to provide a 
contrasting point of view. Despite the short notice, I was delighted. It is 
so rare that the gender-bias experts are confronted with any kind of 
criticism. I accepted and we planned that I would leave for Chicago 
Wednesday morning to avoid transportation problems from a predicted 
storm. But on late Tuesday afternoon, the producer called to tell me that 
there had been an extraordinary development. The Sadkers were refusing 
to appear with me. The producer was apologetic, but he was in a bind. 
The show would go on without my criticism—which is just what the 
Sadkers wanted. I told the producer that this was a pattern with gender- 

The Wellesley Report 


bias advocates; they meet only in like-minded groups and speak only in 
uncontested venues. They do not feel obligated to deal with objections to 
their views and doctrines. What is extraordinary is that, so far, they have 
been able to get their way. 

The Sadkers are just two of several authors of the Wellesley Report. 
Peggy McIntosh is another. She is listed as a “core team member” who 
helped to do the research and to write the report and who “discussed, 
reviewed, and debated every aspect of the project for its entire twelve- 
month life.” 51 In addition to the charge that schools undermine girls’ self¬ 
esteem by “silencing” them in our nation’s classrooms, the report claims 
that girls “do not see themselves” reflected in the curriculum. That is Ms. 
McIntosh’s pet charge. 

Blandly accepting Ms. McIntosh’s quirky distinction between (femi¬ 
nine) “lateral” and (masculine) “vertical” thinking, the report urges that 
girls’ special ways of thinking and knowing be recognized and empha¬ 
sized in the nation’s elementary schools. Likewise, the report refers to 
McIntosh’s five interactive phases of curricular development as if these 
were recognized scientific findings: 

Phases I, II, and III have a vertical axis of “either/or thinking” that 
views winning and losing as the only alternatives. An important 
conceptual and emotional shift occurs in Phase IV. . . . In Phase IV 
we see, for the first time, the cyclical nature of daily life, the making 
and mending of the social fabric. . . . Phase IV features lateral and 
plural thinking, sees “vertical” thinking as simply one version of 
thinking, and encourages all students to “make textbooks of their 
lives.” 52 

The report does not explain the meaning of “vertical” and “lateral” 
thinking or what it might mean to “make textbooks of [one’s life],” but it 
repeats as gospel McIntosh’s assessment of the traditional curriculum as 
insidious: “Many school subjects, as presently taught, fall within the gen¬ 
eral descriptions of Phases I and II. In the upper grades especially, the 
curriculum narrows and definitions of knowing take on gender-specific 
and culture-specific qualities associated with Anglo-European male val¬ 
ues.” 53 Such passages provide insight into what the gender feminists mean 
by gender inequity—a definition far from what most people understand 
it to mean. As an example of a phase one Anglo-European male activity, 
the report cites civics classes that focus on controversy. It suggests that 


Who Stole Feminism? 

girls would be more comfortable in classes that are more personal and 
less contentious—that address what the report calls “the daily texture of 

To get at the philosophy underlying the Wellesley Report, it is instruc¬ 
tive to return to McIntosh’s fall 1990 workshop for grade school teachers 
in Brookline, Massachusetts, when she condemned “young white males” 
as a group, calling them “dangerous to themselves and to the rest of us.” 54 
To give her audience an idea of the harm inflicted by the vertical ap¬ 
proach, she told of a young girl who had trouble adding a column of 
numbers: 1 + 3 + 5. The problem, as McIntosh saw it, was that the 
worksheet required her to think vertically, thereby undermining her self¬ 
esteem and causing her to become discouraged. She urged the Brookline 
teachers to find ways to “put. . . [students] off the right-wrong axis, the 
win-lose axis.” 

What that might mean for learning sums, McIntosh never explicitly 
said. One exasperated parent who saw the video, Robert Costrell, a pro¬ 
fessor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst wrote 
a piece in the local newspaper critical of Ms. McIntosh’s educational 

Since the child could not add 1 + 3 + 5, we need to know if she 
could add 1 + 3. If not, then she would only be further demoral¬ 
ized by more three-term exercises, no matter how non-hierarchical. 

If she can add 1 + 3, then the child is ready for a breakthrough, 
since she could then add 4 + 5 and finish the problem. The child 
would not only have found the answer, but would have the basis 
for later study of the associative law in algebra, not to mention the 
self-esteem that goes along with it. But of course, this is “vertical 
thinking.” 55 

Professor Costrell here touches on a fundamental inconsistency within 
the Wellesley Report. On the one hand, it tells us that girls are left behind 
in math, science, and engineering and that we must take steps to help 
them catch up. Though the report exaggerates the significance of the 
disparity between the math skills of boys and those of girls, we may all 
acknowledge the need to address any deficiency girls may have in math 
and science. But the report goes on to denigrate vertical approaches to 
subjects like math and science, despite the fact that they depend on exact 
thinking and calculation. It’s not that the authors of the report could not 
make up their minds; in fact, they seem to have little use for exact 
thinking and real science. But the reporters and politicians needed some 

The Wellesley Report 


evidence that girls are being shortchanged. The discrepancy in science 
and math, though small, was useful for that purpose. So the report cites 
the boys’ advantage in these areas, ignoring for the moment its own 
prejudice against those subjects. 

Debating clubs, which take for granted an “adversarial, win/lose ori¬ 
entation,” are cited in the report as another example of a male approach 
to knowledge. Yet most analytical disciplines, from philosophy to history 
to law, require skill in argument. As an equity feminist who wants 
girls to excel, I see debating clubs as an important tool for teaching 
students to be articulate, cogent, persuasive, and forceful. True, adversar¬ 
ial competitiveness is a part of every debate, and so favoring skill in debate 
may be made to seem like favoring aggression. So what? Adversarial 
rhetoric is a tradition of the greatest schools, from the dialectical practices 
of the Greek academies and the ancient yeshivas of Babylonia to the great 
debating clubs of Oxford and Cambridge. What would our modem sys¬ 
tem of democratic parliaments be without debates? More than ever 
women are called upon to use debating skills in their professions and 
in politics. To talk about “kill or be killed” practices and to suggest 
that women are “above” that sort of thing is to relegate them to ineffective¬ 

McIntosh’s theories are depressingly reminiscent of the canard that 
women are innately irrational and too delicate for the rough-and-tumble 
world we associate with effective intellectual exchange and clear thinking. 
How far, after all, is McIntosh from the eighteenth-century German phi¬ 
losopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who had his own views about male and 
female “ways of knowing.” “Man reduces all that is in and for him to clear 
conceptions, and discovers it only through reasoning. . . . Woman, on the 
other hand, has a natural sentiment of what is good, true, and proper.” 
Not surprisingly, Fichte offers this left-handed compliment to women 
and their wondrous “sentiments” in the course of arguing against granting 
them the right to vote. 56 

The women at the AAUW and the Wellesley College Center for Re¬ 
search on Women cannot have it both ways: if you want girls to succeed 
in math, science, and engineering, then you have to teach them, along 
with boys, to be analytical thinkers, to value the very things Ms. McIntosh 
was warning the Brookline teachers against—“exact thinking, decisive¬ 
ness, mastery of something—right and wrong answers, win lest you lose.” 
As John Leo of US. News & World Report —one of the few journalists 
who took the trouble to read past the first few pages of the report—put 
it, “McIntosh wants to promote ‘lateral thinking’ in the curriculum, the 
aim of which is not to win or excel but ‘to be in a decent relationship to 


Who Stole Feminism? 

the invisible elements of the universe.’ Consider that an alarm bell. This 
report needs a full vertical analysis.” 57 

Colleges use both the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the high school 
records in selecting students for admission. On average, girls have better 
grades but do slightly worse on the SAT. The mean math scores in 1992 
were 499 for boys, and 456 for girls; in English, 428 for boys, and 419 
for girls. 58 The SAT is supposed to predict how well a student will do in 
college; however, once they get to college, it is the girls who get the better 

Ever on the alert for how schools are “shortchanging” girls, the Welles¬ 
ley Report takes these facts as clear evidence that the SAT is biased in 
favor of boys. It is possible that the test score differentials are indicative 
of bias and that the test should be altered to minimize or eliminate such 
bias. But we cannot accept that conclusion without better (and more 
impartial) research. Scores by themselves do not necessarily show bias. 
There are many other factors to consider. 

More girls than boys take the SAT (girls, 52 percent; boys, 48 percent); 
moreover, according to the 1992 College Board Profile of the SAT Test 
Takers, more females from “at risk” categories take the test than males. 
Specifically, more girls from lower-income homes or with parents who 
never attended college are likely to attempt the SAT exam than are boys 
from the same background. “These characteristics are associated with 
lower than average SAT scores,” says the College Board. 59 

Men and women take different kinds of courses in college; more males 
enroll in math and science, more females in the humanities. The advent 
of radical grade inflation in the humanities, and comparatively little in 
the sciences, might explain why, despite lower SAT scores, women stu¬ 
dents net higher grade point averages. The Wellesley researchers were 
aware of this possibility, but they insist that even when course difficulty 
is taken into account, the SAT test still turns out to be biased against girls: 

The underprediction of women’s college grades does not result from 
women taking easier courses. In math courses at all levels, grades of 
females and males are very similar, but male SAT-Math scores are 
higher than female scores. Even when grades are weighted to allow 
for differences in the difficulty of first-year courses taken by women 
and men, the underprediction of women’s grades is reduced but not 
eliminated. 60 

If that were right, we would certainly be inclined to say that the test is 
skewed in favor of the boys. On this point the report claims support from 

The Wellesley Report 


an article entitled “Gender Bias in the Prediction of College Course Per¬ 
formance” in a 1988 issue of the Journal of Educational Measurement. But, 
as journalist Daniel Seligman reported in a March 1992 issue of Fortune, 
that article is a weak reed indeed. 61 Its authors, Robert McCormack and 
Mary McLeod of San Diego State University, take pains to say that once 
the difficulty of the courses is considered, there is no evidence of gender 
bias. In fact, McCormack and McLeod found, “Curiously, in those few 
courses in which a gender bias was found, it most often involved over¬ 
predicting for women in a course in which men earned a higher average 
grade.” 62 

Seligman’s observations provoked a letter to Fortune from Susan Bailey 
and Patricia Campbell—two of the report’s authors. They did not defend, 
explain, or apologize for their reliance on the McCormack/McLeod article; 
instead they claimed that other studies do support the finding of bias. 
Furthermore, they asserted, “It is hard to take seriously [Seligman’s] cri¬ 
tique . . . when girls are referred to as ‘dolls.’. . . The Report was written 
to document gender bias and to suggest positive steps to combat it. 
Reference to guys [and] dolls . . . does little to help our schools or our 
students.” 63 Mr. Seligman’s choice of words may have been frivolous, but 
his point was not. And what are we to think when those who claim to be 
helping our schools refuse to answer a criticism that presents a simple 
finding of error? 

Criticism by the education writer Rita Kramer in Commentary provoked 
another angry letter from Sharon Schuster, the president of the AAUW. 
Ms. Schuster argued that girls’ weaker performance was caused by the 
biased content of the tests: 

Research studies reviewed in the report also found substantial gen¬ 
der bias in standardized tests. One analysis of tests found twice as 
many references to men as to women, and more pictures of and 
references to boys than girls. A later study of the Scholastic Aptitude 
Test (SAT) found references to 42 men and only three women in 
the reading-comprehension passages used in the four 1984-85 
exams. Of the 42 men, 34 were famous and their work was cited; 
one of the three women was famous (Margaret Mead) and her work 
was criticized. 64 

Ms. Schuster seems to imply that if the SAT and other standardized 
tests had more word problems that girls could relate to—say, about 
famous women or perhaps about cooking, sewing, quilting, or relation¬ 
ships—then girls’ scores would go up. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

But surely Ms. Schuster read the report which rejects this argument, 
noting that “references to male or female names, pronouns, possessions, 
or occupations in the place of neutral language had no demonstrable effect 
at all on the examinee performance on mathematics word problems [my 
emphasis].” Boys still averaged better than girls on SAT problem solving, 
“even when the problem related to food and cooking.” The content of 
examples had no effect on performance one way or the other. 

The report did find that girls are better than boys in computation, a 
rather small consolation in an era of hand-held calculators. Not to be 
discouraged, the AAUW-Wellesley team seized the opportunity to rec¬ 
ommend that boys’ and girls’ test results be equalized by testing more on 
computation and less on problem solving. Of course, this sets precisely 
the wrong emphasis, since it is the higher-order skills—problem solving 
—that are most important, and in which our children are weakest. Inter¬ 
national exams document that our schoolchildren come closer to our 
competitors in arithmetic (though even here they still lag behind) than 
they do in more challenging areas. 

So, once again we find that the gender feminists’ ideological and par¬ 
tisan treatment of a problem—which is in principle amenable to an 
objective and nonpartisan solution—ends up confusing the issues, creat¬ 
ing acrimony, and helping nobody. The question of test fairness is impor¬ 
tant, too important to be left to the mercies of advocacy research. Who is 
shortchanging whom? 

The Wellesley Report is correct when it points out that American girls 
are trailing boys in math and science. The gap is small but real, and the 
report is right to suggest that schools must make every effort to “dispel 
myths about math and science as ‘inappropriate’ fields for women.” 65 
Unfortunately, that sound suggestion is accompanied by more than 
twenty questionable and distressing recommendations that would, if 
acted upon, create a nightmarish “gender equity” bureaucracy with plenty 
of time and money on its hands—just the sort of recommendation anyone 
who cares about the well-being of American schools should fear and 
loathe: “The U.S Department of Education’s Office of Educational Re¬ 
search and Improvement (OERI) should establish an advisory panel of 
gender equity experts to work with OERI to develop a research and 
dissemination agenda to foster gender-equitable education in the nation’s 
classrooms.” 66 

Who would be training the gender experts? Who would monitor the 
nation’s schools on how well they conform to the ideals of a correct sexual 

The Wellesley Report 


politics? More generally, who would benefit most from the millions being 
requested for the Gender Equity in Education Act? Would it not be those 
who insist that gender equity is our foremost educational problem? Our 
system cannot handle much more pressure from these muddled but de¬ 
termined women with their multistage theories and their metaphors about 
windows, mirrors, and voices, their workshops, and above all their con¬ 
stant alarms about the state of male-female relations in American society. 

Which leads us back to what is most wrongheaded about the Wellesley 
Report: its exploitation of America’s very real problem as a nation educa¬ 
tionally at risk. Despite its suggestion that solving the “problem of gender 
equity” will somehow help us to bridge the gap between American chil¬ 
dren and the educationally superior children of other countries—what 
the education researcher Harold Stevenson aptly calls the “learning gap” 
—the report never says how. The reason for the omission is obvious: the 
authors have no plausible solution to offer. 

In 1990 the Japanese translated into English the mathematical section 
of their college entrance exam. American mathematicians were startled by 
what they saw. Professor Richard Askey, a mathematician at the Univer¬ 
sity of Wisconsin, spoke for many American scientists and mathemati¬ 
cians when he said, “The level at which (Japanese] students perform on 
these [exams] is just incredible.” 67 

Science magazine recently printed a sample question from the entrance 
examination to Tokyo University. To solve it would require a lot of 
“vertical thinking”: “Given a regular pyramid, there is a ball with its center 
on the bottom of the pyramid and tangent to all edges. (A regular pyramid 
has four isosceles triangles adjoined to a square base.) If each edge of the 
pyramid base is of length a, find the height of the pyramid and the volume 
of the portion it has in common with the ball.” 68 

The Science editors point out that this question is being asked not of 
future math and science majors but of Japanese high school students who 
were planning to major in the humanities. They noted: “When U.S. math 
majors might trail even lit students in Japan, there’s a lot of catching up 
to do.” 69 

American educators sometimes explain away the discrepancies by 
pointing out that only the best students in Japan take the test. In 1987, 
for example, 31 percent of American college-age students took the SAT; 
in Japan the figure was 14 percent for the Japanese equivalent of the SAT. 
But even our very best students had a hard time matching the average 
score of the Japanese students. 70 Studies by Professor Jerry Becker, of 
Southern Illinois University, and by Floyd Mattheis, of East Carolina 
University, tell the same story. Becker reports that the problem is not 


Who Stole Feminism? 

simply that Japanese students as a whole outperform our students but 
that “average students in Japan show greater achievement than the top 
five percent of U.S. students” (his emphasis). 71 Mattheis compared junior 
high students in Japan and North Carolina. Reporting on his study, Sci¬ 
ence magazine says, “It shows Japanese students out front at every age 
group in a test that measures six logical thinking operations.” 72 

Professor Stevenson has done some of the most thorough comparative 
studies. He found a big difference between the average American score 
and the average for Japanese and Taiwanese students. (Only 14.5 percent 
of Taiwanese and 8 percent of Japanese eleventh-graders had scores below 
the American average.) Among fifth-graders only 4.1 percent of Tai¬ 
wanese children and 10.3 percent of Japanese children score as low or 
lower than the American average. 73 Stevenson points out that we cannot 
attribute the disparity to “differential sampling.” He studied first-, fifth-, 
and eleventh-graders in Japan, Taiwan, and the United States, in all three 
of which enrollment in first and fifth grades is close to 100 percent. If 
vocational schools are included in the figures for high school, the repre¬ 
sentation of adolescents is also the same. 

What of the gender gap between American boys and girls in math? As 
noted earlier, the Educational Testing Service (in its International Assess¬ 
ment of Mathematics and Science) found that although thirteen-year-old 
American girls lag a point behind the boys, that gap is insignificant 
compared to the one between American children and foreign children. 
Recall that the disparity between our boys and Taiwanese and Korean 
girls was 16 points. 74 

Some theorists speculate that Asian children do better at math because 
their languages are so complex and abstract, providing better preparation 
in the cognitive skills required for math and science. That does not help 
to explain why American children lag behind European and Canadian 
students too. Girls in French-speaking Quebec outperform our boys by 
12 points on the LAEP math test. In fact, American boys lag behind girls 
in such countries as Ireland, Italy, and Hungary. 75 In science the results, 
although not quite so dismaying, continue the pattern: American boys 
trail significantly behind the foreign girls. 

The president of the Educational Testing Service, Gregory Anrig, has 
cited three factors that contribute to Asians’ and Europeans’ higher per¬ 
formance: rigorous content in the curriculum, high expectations from 
parents and teachers, and positive cultural attitudes toward learning. 76 
Absurdly, cynically, or foolishly, the AAUW and the Wellesley experts 
are focusing on the one area in which American students surpass students 

The Wellesley Report 


in other countries, and where they need the least amount of help—self¬ 

Reacting to the alarms of the AAUW and the Wellesley College Center 
for Research on Women, Congress is now likely to pass the Gender Equity 
in Education Act. Unfortunately, a legislative emphasis on gender gaps is 
an unhelpful diversion. Dr. Stevenson’s findings, backed by serious stud¬ 
ies from many other quarters, highlight the real problems of a nation that 
is educationally at risk. The recommendations that Stevenson and other 
experts on the “learning gap” problem are making are straightforward, 
constructive, commonsensical, and practicable. Must we wait for Con¬ 
gress to exhaust its need to show that its feminist credentials are in order 
before we see a serious effort to get our educational act together? 

The AAUW and the Wellesley researchers had every right to be grati¬ 
fied at their success. It had all been so easy. The media had been cooper¬ 
ative and uncritical. The strategy of “do a study, declare a crisis, get 
politicians worked up” was proving to be astonishingly effective. 

The Wellesley Center took the lead for the next study, focusing on the 
sexual harassment of girls by boys in the grade schools. Nan Stein was 
the obvious choice to carry out such a study. A “project director” at the 
Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, she had been promi¬ 
nent on the workshop circuit for many years. Working closely with the 
National Organization of Women, Dr. Stein designed a questionnaire and 
placed it in the September 1992 issue of Seventeen. The editors at Seven¬ 
teen preceded the questionnaire by an article that told a disturbing story 
about a Minnesota girl named Katy Lyle who was tormented and humili¬ 
ated on a daily basis by her peers and eventually took legal action. Certain 
passages from the story were highlighted in large boldface letters: “It’s 
probably happened to you” and “You don’t have to put up with it—in 
fact it’s illegal. And your school is responsible for stopping it.” The article 
ended with a word from Dr. Stein about the importance of creating more 
caring and just schools—“girls included.” Then came the half-page tear- 
off questionnaire entitled “What’s Happening to You?” Among the thir¬ 
teen questions asked of the Seventeen readers were these: 

• Did anyone do any of the following to you when you didn’t want them 
to in the last school year? 

(a) touch, pinch, or grab you 

(b) lean over you or comer you 


Who Stole Feminism? 

(c) give you sexual notes or pictures 

(d) make suggestive or sexual gestures, looks, comments, or jokes 

(e) pressure you to do something sexual 
(0 force you to do something sexual 

• If you’ve been sexually harassed at school, how did it make you 

Forty-two hundred of the magazine’s 1.9 million subscribers returned 
the questionnaire, a 0.2 percent response. 77 Nearly all the respondents 
reported they had been harassed as defined by the questionnaire. Specif¬ 
ically, the data showed that 89 percent of the respondents had received 
suggestive gestures, looks, comments, or jokes; 83 percent had been 
touched, pinched, or grabbed; 47 percent were leaned over or cornered; 
28 percent received sexual notes or pictures; 27 percent were pressured 
to do something sexual; and 10 percent were forced to do something 

Ms. Stein, who was much moved by the responses, began to write 
about them even before she completed the study. In the November 1992 
issue of Education Week, she wrote: 

Their letters arrive by the hundreds daily, screaming to be read: 
“open,” “urgent,” “please read” are scribbled on the envelopes. 
Sometimes the writers give their names and addresses, sometimes 
they don’t. . . . Inside the envelopes are chilling stories, handwritten 
on lined notebook paper. ... All beg for attention, for answers, and 
above all, for some type of justice. 78 

“To thousands of adolescent girls,” she concludes, “school may be 
teaching more about oppression than freedom; more about silence than 
autonomy. We need to heed their warnings and listen to their stories.” 

When Ms. Stein’s final report came out on March 24, 1993, the results 
were carried in newspapers around the country. The reporters cited Ms. 
Stein’s figures in just the way she and the Wellesley researchers must have 
hoped: Instead of pointing out that the “9 out of 10” of those who 
reported being sexually harassed were girls who had taken the trouble to 
answer a magazine survey—and who constituted no more than two- 
tenths of 1 percent of the magazine’s readership—the reporters simply 
spoke of an epidemic of harassment. The story headline from the Boston 
Globe was typical: “A U.S. survey shows wide harassment of girls in 
school.” 79 

What Ms. Stein and the National Organization of Women had devised 

The Wellesley Report 


is known as a self-selecting poll. Responsible pollsters call them SLOPs— 
self-selected listener opinion polls—and they avoid doing them, or 
crediting them when other pollsters do them. 80 A famous example used 
in introductory statistics classes shows their failings—the 1936 SLOP 
published by the Literary Digest that showed Alf Landon beating FDR by 
a landslide. SLOPs continue to be popular with some mass-market pub¬ 
lications as a form of entertainment, but no serious researcher relies on 

I asked Tom W. Smith, a director at the National Opinion Research 
Center at the University of Chicago, whether we leam anything from a 
poll of this kind: “No, because there is a crucial fallacy in self-selected 
research: you get a biased response.” He pointed out that the Wellesley 
harassment survey was in fact the result of not one but two stages of self¬ 
selection. The study was confined to readers of Seventeen, whose readers 
are not necessarily representative of the population of adolescent girls; 
and readers who respond to such a survey tend to be those who feel most 
strongly about the problem. “Even if they had forty thousand responses 
it would still prove very little,” said Smith. “You still have to wonder 
about the other million and a half-plus who did not respond.” 

It is not hard to see how SLOPs could be used to generate alarm in 
almost any area of social interaction. Using Nan Stein’s methodology, we 
could easily get people worked up about the problem of neighborly 
harassment. We begin by writing a story describing a case of horrifying 
neighbor behavior. Assume that we print this in a publication like the 
Reader’s Digest. Certain passages would be highlighted—“It’s probably 
happened to you” and “You don’t have to put up with it—in fact it’s 
illegal. And your city government is responsible for stopping it.” We 
would then enclose a convenient one-page survey called “What’s Happen¬ 
ing to You?” asking whether your neighbor did any of a list of things to 
you in the past year—“generally annoy you by asking for burdensome 
favors,” “scream at your children,” “play loud music or have loud parties,” 
“damage your lawn, your car, your garden, your pet, or any other prop¬ 
erty,” “frighten you by reckless, threatening behavior—involving alcohol, 
drugs, or guns,” “steal from you or physically attack you or any member 
of your family.” And we would end by asking, “If you have been tor¬ 
mented by your neighbor, how did it make you feel?” 

It would be expected that the Digest would receive responses from 
some small percentage of its readers and that the vast majority of this small 
percentage would give details of being victimized by a neighbor. The 
“researcher” could then tally up the results in a scientific-looking bro¬ 
chure full of tables, charts, and percentages (86 percent were accosted by 


Who Stole Feminism? 

their neighbor, 62 percent threatened with physical attack, 45 percent 
physically beaten, 91 percent subjected to loud music, etc.). Interspersed 
throughout the report would be disturbing passages from letters by the 

Though its findings would surely be depressing, a SLOP survey on 
neighborly harassment would tell us very little that we did not know. 
Everyone knows that some neighbors are intolerable. What we want to 
know is how prevalent neighbor harassment is, and for that we need to 
know about the experience of those who did not return the questionnaire. 

An SLOP survey is of little value to most social scientists. In using one 
as her survey instrument, Nan Stein was virtually assured of the alarming 
results. A serious study of juvenile harassment needs another kind of 
approach. We need to know whether the cases cited were part of a more 
general problem of a breakdown of civility and discipline among Ameri¬ 
can adolescents, for example. Sexual harassment may indeed be more 
prevalent today than it has been in the past. On the other hand, its greater 
prevalence may be due to the overall rise of antisocial behavior in Amer¬ 
ican life rather than to a rise in gender bias. We’d also want to get a sense 
of how adolescent girls harass other girls. 

The point is that the Wellesley harassment study is less concerned with 
girls’ unhappiness than with how boys make them unhappy. The study 
tells us once again how our society “shortchanges” and “silences” its 
females, giving the gender feminists a fresh supply of stories of female 
victimization and male malfeasance. The survey may have been unscien¬ 
tific, but it was perfectly designed for its real purpose. 

Susan McGee Bailey, a director at the Wellesley College Center for 
Research on Women, called the Seventeen survey a “wake-up call” and 
urged everyone to “listen to the girls’ voices.” 81 She acknowledged, how¬ 
ever, that the survey was unscientific. The AAUW soon took up the 
implicit challenge. In a survey conducted by the Louis Harris polling 
firm, a random sample of fifteen hundred boys and girls (grades eight 
through eleven) were queried about harassment. The findings surprised 
everyone including the AAUW. Four of five students, male as well as 
female, reported being harassed. The study does suggest that our schools 
are the setting for a lot of incivility and even outright violence. It suggests 
that many kids are erotically overstimulated. More than half the girls and 
nearly half the boys had been touched, grabbed, or pinched “in a sexual 
way.” Some of the students had been rubbed up against (57 percent of 
girls, 36 percent of boys), some had had clothing pulled at, and some had 
received sexual notes. 82 

The high incidence of sexually harassed males was a distinct embar- 

The Wellesley Report 


rassment to the AAUW. How do you put a gender bias spin on that kind 
of finding? Once again, the AAUW was up to the challenge. Speaking to 
the Boston Globe, Alice McKee argued that the effects of the harassment 
differ: “The bottom line is that girls suffer adverse emotional, behavioral 
and educational impacts three times more often than boys as a result of 
sexual harassment.” The Globe writer, Alison Bass, explained and ampli¬ 
fied the point: 

Even though boys reported being harassed almost as often as did 
girls, the survey . . . found that girls were far more likely than boys 
to want to cut class and stay home from school as a result of the 
harassment. Girls were also more hesitant to speak up in class and 
less confident about themselves after being sexually harassed, the 
survey found. 83 

So once again we are given to understand that “research suggests” the 
girls are being shortchanged. The effects on them (in wanting to cut 
classes and stay home) were markedly worse. But wanting to cut classes 
and actually cutting classes are not the same, and the latter effect is just 
the sort of thing we can check. 84 If McKee is right, girls should be showing 
high rates of absenteeism, cutting class, and getting lower grades. In fact, 
girls have better attendance and earn better grades than boys, and more 
of them graduate. This is not to say that girls and boys react to harassment 
in the same way. The response of girls to insults or slights may indeed be 
more dramatic, leading them to express the desire to cut classes more than 
boys do—a finding that would be in keeping with those of Wendy Wood 
and her colleagues at Texas A&M, that “girls are more aware of their 
feelings and more accurate in reporting on negative emotions.” 

This time the AAUW’s pollsters had come up with findings that did 
not readily lend themselves to the “shortchanging” theme. And for the 
first time some skeptical voices began to speak up in the popular press. 
In a New York Times story, Felicity Barringer cited students who criticized 
the survey for “characterizing too many behaviors as sexual harassment.” 
After the Boston Globe ran a story giving the exact spin the AAUW dic¬ 
tated, reporter Thomas Palmer had doubts about the validity of the ha¬ 
rassment survey. He and Alison Bass wrote a story questioning the AAUW 
findings and incorporating outside opinions. Billie Dziech, an expert on 
sexual harassment and the author of one of the most respected books on 
the subject, The Lecherous Professor, pointed out that the inexact termi¬ 
nology vitiated the AAUW report. 85 “There is a difference between some¬ 
thing I would call ‘sexual hassle’ and ‘sexual harassment.’ ” 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Jerry Weiner, president-elect of the American Psychiatry Association, 
told the Globe, “I have many reservations and concerns about the reliabil¬ 
ity of the data and using that kind of data to draw the broad sweeping 
conclusions that were drawn in the report.” Tom W. Smith, the director 
of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 
also criticized the vagueness of the questions and the wide range of 
possible interpretation. 

For the first time the merits of an AAUW study alleging gender inequity 
were not simply reported but actually debated on national television. Ted 
Koppel chose the AAUW’s report on sexual harassment in grade schools 
as a subject for “Nightline.” He arranged a confrontation between Nan 
Stein and me to debate its significance. Ms. Stein is an excellent protago¬ 
nist, but she faltered when I reminded her that she had spoken of the 
little boys who flipped up the skirts of little girls in the schoolyard as 
“gender terrorists.” A skeptical Mr. Koppel asked whether she would call 
a schoolyard bully picking on another boy a “terrorist” too. Ms. Stein 
must not have enjoyed the experience—after our “Nightline” encounter, 
she backed out of another debate between us scheduled for a Boston 
television program the following week. The producer was too diplomatic 
to tell me what Ms. Stein had said about me. “Let us just say she does not 
like you very much.” 

In December 1993 I took part in another debate about harassment in 
the workplace with Anne Bryant, executive director of the AAUW, on 
ABCs “Lifetime Magazine.” I said that the AAUW surveys were “tenden¬ 
tious and biased.” I brought up the fact that their harassment study had 
failed to distinguish between “casual banter, teasing, and serious harass¬ 
ment.” Shaking her finger at me, Bryant admonished me, “Christina, stop 
it! Do you want to know something? This is the last time you’ll criticize 
the incredibly prestigious and well-run organization—the American As¬ 
sociation of University Women.” 86 It would seem she feels that any criti¬ 
cism of the AAUW is simply out of order and should not be given a 
public airing. In any case, the producer told me that the AAUW’s public 
relations director later tried to persuade ABC not to run the debate. 

Feminism is not well served by biased studies or by media that tolerate 
and help to promote them. Had journalists, politicians, and education 
leaders been doing a proper job of checking sources, looking at the 
original data, and seeking dissenting opinions from scholars, had they 
not put their faith in glossy brochures and press releases, the alarming 
findings on self-esteem, gender bias in the classroom, and harassment in 
the hallways would not be automatically credited. In a soundly critical 
climate, the federal government would not be on the verge of pouring 

The Wellesley Report 


tens of millions of dollars into projects that will enrich the gender-bias 
industry and further weaken our schools. And Ms. Bryant and the other 
current leaders of the AAUW would have learned some time ago that the 
reputation of the AAUW must inevitably be compromised by anyone who 
uses its “incredible prestige” to promote research whose probity and 
objectivity cannot be defended. 

Chapter 9 

Noble Lies 

Pity, wrath, heroism filled them, but the power oj putting 
two and two together was annihilated. 

—E. M. Forster, A Passage to India 

Statistics and studies on such provocative subjects as eating disorders, 
rape, battery, and wage differentials are used to underscore the plight of 
women in the oppressive gender system and to help recruit adherents to 
the gender feminist cause. But if the figures are not true, they almost 
never serve the interests of the victimized women they concern. Anorexia 
is a disease; blaming men does nothing to help cure it. Battery and rape 
are crimes that shatter lives; those who suffer must be cared for, and those 
who cause their suffering must be rendered incapable of doing further 
harm. But in all we do to help, the most loyal ally is truth. Truth brought 
to public light recruits the best of us to work for change. On the other 
hand, even the best-intentioned “noble lie” ultimately discredits the finest 
of causes. 

Gender feminist ideology holds that physical menace toward women 
is the norm. The cause of battered women has been a handy bandwagon 
for this creed. Gloria Steinem’s portrait of male-female intimacy under 
patriarchy is typical: “Patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat 
of violence in order to maintain itself. . . . The most dangerous situation 
for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in 

Noble Lies 


wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.” 1 
Steinem’s description of the dangers women face in their own home is 
reminiscent of the Super Bowl hoax of January 1993. 2 

The reader may remember that some days before that Super Bowl, 
American women were alerted that a sharp increase in battering was to 
be expected on the day of the game. The implications were sensational, 
but purportedly there were reliable studies. In the current climate, the 
story had a certain ring of plausibility, and it quickly spread. Here is the 

Thursday, January 27 

A news conference was called in Pasadena, California, the site of the 
forthcoming Super Bowl game, by a coalition of women’s groups. At the 
news conference reporters were informed that Super Bowl Sunday is 
“the biggest day of the year for violence against women.” 3 Forty percent 
more women would be battered on that day. In support of the 40 percent 
figure, Sheila Kuehl of the California Women’s Law Center cited a study 
done at Virginia’s Old Dominion University three years before. The pres¬ 
ence of Linda Mitchell, a representative of a media “watchdog” group 
called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), lent credibility to the 

At about this time a very large media mailing was sent by Dobisky 
Associates, FAIR’S publicists, warning at-risk women: “Don’t remain at 
home with him during the game.” The idea that sports fans are prone to 
attack wives or girlfriends on that climactic day persuaded many men as 
well: Robert Lipsyte of the New York Times would soon be referring to the 
“Abuse Bowl.” 4 

Friday, January 28 

Lenore Walker, a Denver psychologist and author of The Battered 
Woman, appeared on “Good Morning America” claiming to have com¬ 
piled a ten-year record showing a sharp increase in violent incidents 
against women on Super Bowl Sundays. 

Here, again, a representative from FAIR, Laura Flanders, was present 
to lend credibility to the claim. 

Saturday, January 29 

A story in the Boston Globe written by Lynda Gorov reported that 
women’s shelters and hotlines are “flooded with more calls from victims 
[on Super Bowl Sunday] than on any other day of the year.” Gorov cited 
“one study of women’s shelters out West” that “showed a 40 percent 


Who Stole Feminism? 

climb in calls, a pattern advocates said is repeated nationwide, including 
in Massachusetts.” 5 

Ms. Gorov asked specialists in domestic violence to explain the phe¬ 
nomenon. Many felt that everything about the Super Bowl is calculated 
to give men the idea that women are there for their use and abuse. “More 
than one advocate mentioned provocatively dressed cheerleaders at the 
game may reinforce abusers’ perceptions that women are intended to 
serve men,” she wrote. According to Nancy Isaac, an expert on domestic 
violence at the Harvard School of Public Health, men see the violence as 
their right: “It’s: ‘I’m supposed to be king of my castle, it’s supposed to 
be my day, and if you don’t have dinner ready on time, you’re going to 
get it.’ ” 

Other newspapers joined in. Robert Lipsyte described the connection 
between the tension generated by the big game and the violence it causes: 
“Someone shut up that kid or someone’s going to get pounded.” 6 Michael 
Collier of the Oakland Tribune wrote that the Super Bowl causes “boy¬ 
friends, husbands and fathers” to “explode like mad linemen, leaving 
girlfriends, wives and children beaten.” 7 Journalists and television com¬ 
mentators all over the country sounded the alarm. CBS and the Associated 
Press called Super Bowl Sunday a “day of dread,” and just before the 
game, NBC broadcast a public service spot reminding men that domestic 
violence is a crime. 

In this roiling sea of media credulity was a lone island of professional 
integrity. Ken Ringle, a Washington Post staff writer, took the time to call 
around to check on the sources of the story. 8 When Ringle asked Janet 
Katz, professor of sociology and criminal justice at Old Dominion and 
one of the principal authors of the study cited by Ms. Kuehl at the 
Thursday press conference, about the connection between violence and 
football games, she said: “That’s not what we found at all.” Instead, she 
told Ringle, they had found that an increase in emergency room admis¬ 
sions “was not associated with the occurrence of football games in gen¬ 
eral.” 9 

Ringle then called Charles Patrick Ewing, a professor at the University 
of Buffalo, whom Dobisky Associates had quoted as saying, “Super Bowl 
Sunday is one day in the year when hot lines, shelters and other agencies 
that work with battered women get the most reports and complaints of 
domestic violence.” “I never said that,” Ewing told Ringle. When told 
about Ewing’s denial, Frank Dobisky corrected himself, saying that the 
quote should have read “one of the days of the year.” But that explanation 

Noble Lies 


either makes the claim incoherent, since only one day can have “the most” 
battery complaints, or trivializes it, since any day (including April Fool’s 
Day) could now be said to be the day of heightened brutality. 

Ringle checked with Lynda Gorov, the Boston Globe reporter. Gorov 
told him she had never seen the study she cited but had been told of it 
by FAIR. Ms. Mitchell of FAIR told Ringle that the authority for the 40 
percent figure was Lenore Walker. Walker’s office, in turn, referred calls 
on the subject to Michael Lindsey, a Denver psychologist and an authority 
on battered women. 

Pressed by Ringle, Lindsey admitted he could find no basis for the 
report. “I haven’t been any more successful than you in tracking down 
any of this,” he said. “You think maybe we have one of these myth things 

Later, other reporters got to Ms. Walker, pressing her to detail her 
findings. She said they were not available. “We don’t use them for public 
consumption,” she explained, “we used them to guide us in advocacy 
projects.” 10 

It would have been more honest for the feminists who initiated the 
campaign to admit that there was no basis for saying that football fans 
are more brutal to women than are chess players or Democrats; nor was 
there any basis for saying that there was a significant rise in domestic 
violence on Super Bowl Sunday. 

Ringle’s unraveling of the “myth thing” was published on the front 
page of the Washington Post on January 31. On February 2, Boston Globe 
staff writer Bob Flohler published what amounted to a retraction of Ms. 
Gorov’s story. Hohler had done some more digging and had gotten FAIR’S 
Steven Rendell to back off from the organization’s earlier support of the 
claim. “It should not have gone out in FAIR materials,” said Rendell. 

Hohler got another set of interviews, this time with psychologists who 
told him that they had their doubts about the story from the very begin¬ 
ning. One expert, Joan Stiles, public education coordinator for the Mas¬ 
sachusetts Coalition of Battered Women’s Service Groups, told the Globe 
that the Super Bowl story “sensationalized and trivialized” the battering 
problem, and damaged the cause’s credibility. Lundy Bancroft, a training 
director for a Cambridge-based counseling program for men who batter, 
said, “I disbelieved the 40 percent thing from the moment I heard it.” 
Bancroft also suggested that the campaign to pressure NBC to air the 
domestic-violence spot “unfairly stigmatized” football fans. “There is no 
stereotypical batterer,” he said. 

Linda Mitchell from FAIR would later acknowledge that she was aware 
during the original news conference that Ms. Kuehl was misrepresenting 


Who Stole Feminism? 

the Old Dominion study. Ringle asked her whether she did not feel 
obligated to challenge her colleague. “I wouldn’t do that in front of the 
media,” Mitchell said. “She has a right to report it as she wants.” 

Hohler’s investigations fully supported the conclusions Ringle had 
reached. Ringle wrote: “Despite their dramatic claims, none of the activists 
appears to have any evidence that a link actually exists between football 
and wife-beating. Yet the concept has gained such credence that their 
campaign has rolled on anyway, unabated.” 11 

Lenore Walker was furious with Ken Ringle for criticizing her research. 
She attributed his unfriendly stance to male pique at not being able to get 
through to her on the phone the day he was writing his story. As she 
explained to the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler: “He [Ringle] felt as if he was 
entitled to talk to me; because he did not get what he was entitled to he 
got angry and decided to use his pen as a sword as a batterer does with 
his fist when he does not get what he thinks he is entitled to.” 12 

The shelters and hot lines, which monitored the Sunday of the twenty- 
seventh Super Bowl with special care, reported no variation in the number 
of calls for help that day, not even in Buffalo, whose team (and fans) had 
suffered a crushing defeat. As Michael Lindsey commented to Ken Ringle, 
“When people make crazy statements like this, the credibility of the whole 
cause can go right out the window.” 

Despite Ringle’s expose, the Super Bowl Sunday “statistic” will be with 
us for a while, doing its divisive work of generating fear and resentment. 
In the book How to Make the World a Better Place for Women in Five 
Minutes a Day, a comment under the heading “Did You Know?” informs 
readers that “Super Bowl Sunday is the most violent day of the year, with 
the highest reported number of domestic battering cases.” 13 How a belief 
in that misandrist canard can make the world a better place for women is 
not explained. 

How many women in the United States are brutalized by the men 
in their lives? Here is a cross section of the various answers that are 

During the 9-year period, intimates committed 5.6 million violent 
victimizations against women, an annual average of 626,000. (U.S. 
Department of Justice, 1991) 14 

Approximately 1.8 million women a year are physically assaulted by 
their husbands or boyfriends. (Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the 
American Family ) 15 

Noble Lies 


In the past year, 3 million women have been battered. (Senator 
Joseph Biden, 1991) 16 

Total domestic violence, reported and unreported, affects a many as 
4 million women a year. (Senator Biden’s staff report, 1992) 17 

An estimated three to four million women are brutally beaten each 
year in the U.S. (Feminist Dictionary ) 18 

Nearly 6 million wives will be abused by their husbands in any one 
year. (Time magazine, September 5, 1983) 

More than 50 percent of all women will experience some form of 
violence from their spouses during marriage. More than one-third 
are battered repeatedly every year. (National Coalition Against Do¬ 
mestic Violence) 19 

The estimates of the number of women beaten per second vary: 

A woman is beaten every eighteen seconds. (Gail Dines, 1992) 20 

An American woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend every 
15 seconds. (New York Times, April 23, 1993) 

Every twelve seconds, a woman in the United States is beaten by her 
husband or lover. (Mirabella, November 1993) 21 

A gong [will be] sounded every ten seconds for a woman being 
battered in the United States. (“The Clothesline Project,’’Johns Hop¬ 
kins University) 22 

In the United States, every 7.4 seconds a woman is beaten by her 
husband. (Annals of Emergency Medicine, June 1989) 

6.5 million women annually are assaulted by their partners . . . one 
every five seconds. (BrotherPeace, 1993) 23 

Sometimes the same source will give the figure both in millions of 
women and in seconds—without acknowledging that the two are incon¬ 
sistent. Since there are 31,536,000 seconds in a year, the fifteen-second 
rate would amount to 2.1 million assaults. Three to four million would 
mean one every 7.9 or 10.5 seconds. This mistake is common: 

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 
3 million to 4 million women are battered every year in the U.S., 


Who Stole Feminism? 

one every 15 seconds. (Mary McGrory, Washington Post, October 20, 

Domestic violence affects an estimated 4 to 5 million women a year. 
Every 15 seconds, an American woman is abused by her partner. 

(Christian Science Monitor, October 12, 1990) 

There are 3 million to 4 million women beaten by husbands or 
lovers every year; that’s one every 15 seconds. (Chicago Tribune, 
February 10, 1992) 

Richard J. Gelles and Murray A. Straus are academic social scientists 
(from the University of Rhode Island and the University of New Hamp¬ 
shire, respectively) who have been studying domestic violence for more 
than twenty-five years. Their research is among the most respected and 
frequently cited by other social scientists, by police, by the FBI, and by 
the personnel in domestic violence agencies. 

For a long time, Gelles and Straus were highly regarded by feminist 
activists for the pioneer work they had done in this once-neglected area. 
But they fell out of favor in the late 1970s because their findings were not 
informed by the “battery is caused by patriarchy” thesis. The fact that 
they were men was also held against them. 

Gelles and Straus do find high levels of violence in many American 
families; but in both of their national surveys they found that women 
were just as likely to engage in it as men. They also found that siblings 
are the most violent of all. 24 They distinguish between minor violence, 
such as throwing objects, pushing, shoving, and slapping (no injuries, no 
serious intimidation), and severe violence, such as kicking, hitting or 
trying to hit with an object, hitting with fist, beating up, and threatening 
with gun or knife—actions that have a high probability of leading to 
injury or are accompanied by the serious threat of injury. The vast major¬ 
ity of family dispjutes involve minor violence rather than severe violence. 
In their 1985 Second National Family Violence Survey, sponsored by the 
National Institute of Mental Health, they found that 16 percent of couples 
were violent—the “Saturday Night Brawlers” (with the wife just as likely 
as the husband to slap, grab, shove, or throw things). In 3 to 4 percent of 
couples, there was at least one act of severe violence by the husband 
against the wife. But in their surveys they also found that “women assault 
their partners at about the same rate as men assault their partners. This 
applies to both minor and severe assaults.” 25 

Noble Lies 


Gelles and Straus are careful to say that women are far more likely to 
be injured and to need medical care. But overall, the percentage of women 
who are injured seriously enough to need medical care is still relatively 
small compared to the inflated claims of the gender feminists and the 
politicians—fewer than 1 percent. 26 Murray Straus estimates that approx¬ 
imately 100,000 women per year are victims of the severe kinds of vio¬ 
lence shown in the TV film The Burning Bed. That is a shockingly high 
number of victims, but it is far short of Senator Biden’s claim, derived 
from feminist advocacy studies, that more that three or four million 
women are victims of “horrifying” violence. 

Straus and Gelles have made other discoveries not appreciated by 
gender feminists. Among them is the finding that because of changing 
demographics and improved public awareness, there was a significant 
decrease in wife battery between 1975 and 1985. 27 Moreover, though they 
once reported that battery increased during pregnancy, they now say they 
were mistaken: “Data from the 1985 Second National Family Violence 
Survey indicate that the previously reported association between preg¬ 
nancy and husband-to-wife violence is spurious, and is an artifact of the 
effect of another variable, age.” 28 

Gelles and Straus consider domestic violence to be a serious national 
problem. They have for years been advocates for social, medical, and legal 
intervention to help battered women. All the same, according to their 
studies, more than 84 percent of families are not violent, and among the 
16 percent who are, nearly half the violence (though not half the injuries) 
is perpetrated by women. 

Journalists, activists, and even gender feminists make extensive use of 
Gelles and Straus’s research. Some researchers manipulate their data to 
get shocking figures on abuse. If you overlook the researchers’ distinction 
between minor and severe violence, if you never mention that women do 
just as much of the shoving, grabbing, pushing, and slapping, you arrive 
at very high figures for battery: three million, four million, six million, 
depending on how slack you are in what you count as battery. 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence gives shocking fig¬ 
ures on abuse in their fundraising brochure: “More than 50 percent of all 
women will experience some form of violence from their spouses during 
marriage. More than one-third are battered repeatedly every year.” We 
get the impression that one-third of all married women (18 million) are 
repeatedly being battered. Where did the coalition get these figures? 
Either they relied on their own special gender feminist sources or they 
creatively interpreted the FBI’s, Department of Justice’s, or Gelles and 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Straus’s studies to suit their purposes. The latter is what the Common¬ 
wealth Fund, a New York State philanthropy concerned with public 
health, did in their Women’s Health Survey. 

In July 1993, the Commonwealth Fund released the results of a tele¬ 
phone survey of 2,500 women, designed and carried out by Louis Harris 
and Associates. The Commonwealth and Harris investigators took their 
questions directly from the Gelles and Straus survey and got the following 

I would like you to tell me whether, in the past twelve months, your 

spouse or partner ever: 

1. Insulted you or 



swore at you 

2. Stomped out of the 
room or house or 




3. Threatened to hit 
you or throw 



something at you 

4. Threw or smashed 
or hit or kicked 




5. Threw something 



at you 

6. Pushed,grabbed, 
shoved, or slapped 




7. Kicked, bit, or hit 
you with a fist or 



some other object 



8. Beat you up 



9. Choked you 

10. Threatened you 



with a knife or gun 



11. Used a knife or gun 



Using these findings, and based on the assumption that there are 
approximately 55 million women married or living with someone as a 

Noble Lies 


couple, the Hams/Commonwealth survey concluded that as many as four 
million women a year were victims of physical assaults, and 20.7 million 
were verbally or emotionally abused by their partners. 29 

Newspapers around the country, including the Wall Street Journal, the 
Washington Post, the Detroit News, and the San Francisco Chronicle, 30 car¬ 
ried the bleak tidings that 37 percent of married women are emotionally 
abused and 3.9 million are physically assaulted every year. 

No one mentioned that all the survey questions were taken from the 
questionnaire that Gelles and Straus had used in their 1975 and 1985 
Family Violence Surveys with very different results. Interpreted as Gelles 
and Straus interpret the data, the survey actually showed that domestic 
violence was still decreasing. The survey had found that 2-3 percent of 
the respondents had suffered what Gelles and Straus classify as “severe 

But the most interesting finding of all, and one entirely overlooked by 
the press, for it did not harmonize with the notes of alarm in the Harris/ 
Commonwealth press releases, was the response the poll received to 
questions 8 through 11, about the most severe forms of violence. Gelles 
and Straus had estimated that these things happen to fewer than 1 percent 
of women. According to the survey sample, the percentage of women 
who had these experiences was virtually zero: all respondents answered 
“no” to all the questions on severe violence. 31 This finding does not, of 
course, mean that no one was brutally attacked. But it does suggest that 
severe violence is relatively rare. 32 

So where did the four million figure for physical assault come from? 
And the twenty million for psychological abuse? Clearly the interpreters 
of the Harris/Commonwealth poll data were operating with a much wider 
conception of “abuse” than Gelles and Straus. Looking at the “survey 
instrument,” we find that they had indeed opened the door wide to the 
alarmist conclusions they disseminated. For some of the answers that 
Gelles and Straus counted as minor and not indicative of abuse, the 
Harris/Commonwealth people took seriously. For example, the question¬ 
naire asked “whether in the past 12 months your partner ever: 1) insulted 
you or swore at you; or 2) stomped out of the room or house or yard.” 
Thirty-four percent of women answered “yes” to these questions, and all 
were classified as victims of “emotional and verbal abuse.” Had men been 
included, one wonders whether they would not have proved to be equally 

To arrive at the figure of four million for physical abuse, the survey 
used the simple expedient of ignoring the distinction between minor and 
severe violent acts, counting all acts of violence as acts of abuse. Five 


Who Stole Feminism? 

percent of the women they spoke to said they had been “pushed, grabbed, 
shoved, or slapped”; they were all classified as victims of domestic vio¬ 
lence and added in to get a projection of four million victims nationwide. 
No effort was made to find out if the aggression was mutual or whether 
it was physically harmful or seriously intimidating. If a couple has a fight, 
and she stomps out of the room (or yard), and he grabs her arm, this 
would count as a violent physical assault on her. 33 

If the survey’s data can be trusted and we interpret them in the careful 
and reasonable way that Gelles and Straus recommend, then we may 
learn that the worst kinds of abuse may be abating. That is still nothing 
to celebrate. If up to 3 percent of American women who are married or 
living with partners are at risk of serious abuse, that would amount to 1.6 
million women. If the higher figures Gelles and Straus found are right 
(3-4 percent), then the number of women at risk is 2.2 million. Both 
numbers are tragically large and speak of an urgent need for prevention 
and for shelters and other help for the victims. 

But how does this help the gender feminist in her misandrist cam¬ 
paign? She needs to find that a large proportion of men are batterers; a 
meager 3 or 4 percent will not serve her purpose. As for journalists and 
the newscasters, their interests too often lie in giving a sensational rather 
than an accurate picture of gender violence, and they tend to credit the 
advocacy sources. Better four million or five than one or two. Evidently, 
Time magazine felt six was even better. And all the better, too, if the 
media’s readers and viewers get the impression that the inflated figures 
refer not to slaps, shoves, or pushes but to brutal, terrifying, life-threat¬ 
ening assaults. 

Gender feminists are committed to the doctrine that the vast majority 
of batterers or rapists are not fringe characters but men whom society 
regards as normal—sports fans, former fraternity brothers, pillars of the 
community. For these “normal” men, women are not so much persons as 
“objects.” In the gender feminist view, once a woman is “objectified” and 
therefore no longer human, battering her is simply the next logical step. 

Just how “normal” are men who batter? Are they ordinary husbands? 
These are legitimate questions, but the road to reasonable answers is all 
too often blocked by feminist dogmas. By setting aside the feminist road¬ 
blocks, we can discern some important truths. 

Are the batterers really just your average Joe? If the state of Massachu¬ 
setts is typical —the large majority of batterers are criminals. Andrew Klein, 

Noble Lies 


chief probation officer in Quincy Court, Quincy, Massachusetts, studied 
repeat batterers for the Ford Foundation. In his final report he said, 
“When Massachusetts computerized its civil restraining order files in 
1992, linking them with the state’s criminal offender record data base, it 
found that almost 80 percent of the first 8,500 male subjects of restraining 
orders had prior criminal records in the state.” 34 

Many of the batterers’ records were for offenses like drunk driving and 
drugs, but almost half had prior histories of violence against male and 
female victims. Klein continues: “In other words, these men were gen¬ 
erally violent, assaulting other males as well as female intimates. The average 
number of prior crimes against persons complaints was 4.5” (my empha¬ 
sis). 35 

The gender feminist believes that the average man is a potential batterer 
because that is how men are “socialized” in the patriarchy. But ideology 
aside, there are indications that those who batter are not average. Talk of 
a generalized misogyny may be preventing us from seeing and facing the 
particular effect on women and men of the large criminal element in our 

Massachusetts may not be typical. Still, the Massachusetts batterers’ 
profile suggests it is not helpful to think of battery exclusively in terms of 
misogyny, patriarchy, or gender bias. We need to understand why the 
number of sociopaths in our society, especially violent male sociopaths, 
is so high. 

My prediction is that Mr. Klein’s important findings will be ignored. 
What use is it to gender warriors like Marilyn French and Gloria Steinem 
to show that violent criminals tend to abuse their wives and girlfriends 
and other males as well? Their primary concern is to persuade the public 
that the so-called normal man is a morally defective human being who 
gets off on hurting women. 

There are other important studies that could help shed light on batter¬ 
ing and could ultimately help many victims who are ignored because 
their batterers do not fit the gender feminist stereotype. 36 It turns out that 
lesbians may be battering each other at the same rate as heterosexuals. 
Several books and articles document the problem of violence among 
lesbians. 37 Professor Claire Renzetti, a professor of sociology at St. Joseph’s 
University in Philadelphia, has studied the problem of lesbian violence 
and summarized the findings in Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian 


Who Stole Feminism? 

It appears that violence in lesbian relationships occurs at about the 
same frequency as violence in heterosexual relationships. The abuse 
may. . . . [range] from verbal threats and insults to stabbings and 
shootings. Indeed, batterers display a terrifying ingenuity in their 
selection of abusive tactics, frequently tailoring the abuse to the 
specific vulnerabilities of their partners. 38 

Once again, it appears that battery may have very little to do with 
patriarchy or gender bias. Where noncriminals are involved, battery 
seems to be a pathology of intimacy, as frequent among gays as among 
straight people. 

Battery and rape research is the very stuff of gender feminist advocacy. 
Researchers who try to pursue their investigations in a nonpolitical way 
are often subject to attack by the advocates. Murray Straus reports that 
he and some of his co-workers “became the object of bitter scholarly 
and personal attacks, including threats and attempts at intimidation.” 39 
In the late seventies and early eighties his scholarly presentations were 
sometimes obstructed by booing, shouting, or picketing. When he was 
being considered for offices in scientific societies, he was labeled an 

In the November 1993 issue of Mirabella, Richard Gelles and Murray 
Straus were accused of using “sexist ‘reasoning’ ” and of producing works 
of “pop ‘scholarship.’ ” The article offers no evidence for these judg¬ 
ments. 40 In 1992 a rumor was circulated that Murray Straus had beaten 
his wife and sexually harassed his students. Straus fought back as best he 
could and in one instance was able to elicit a written apology from a 
domestic violence activist. 

Richard Gelles claims that whenever male researchers question exag¬ 
gerated findings on domestic battery, it is never long before rumors begin 
circulating that he is himself a batterer. For female skeptics, however, the 
situation appears to be equally intimidating. When Suzanne K. Steinmetz, 
a co-investigator in the First National Family Violence Survey, was being 
considered for promotion, the feminists launched a letter-writing cam¬ 
paign urging that it be denied. She also received calls threatening her and 
her family, and there was a bomb threat at a conference where she spoke. 
As long as researchers are thus intimidated, we will probably remain in 
the dark about the true dimension of a problem that affects the lives of 
millions of American women. 

Another factor limiting the prospects for sound research in this area is 
the absence of a rigorous system of review. In most fields, when a well- 
known study is flawed, critics can make a name for themselves by show- 

Noble Lies 


ing up its defects. This process keeps researchers honest. However, in 
today’s environment for feminist research, the higher your figures for 
abuse, the more likely you’ll reap rewards, regardless of your methodol¬ 
ogy. You’ll be mentioned in feminist encyclopedias, dictionaries, “fact 
sheets,” and textbooks. Your research will be widely publicized; Ellen 
Goodman, Anna Quindlen, and Judy Mann will put you in their columns. 
Fashion magazines will reproduce your charts and graphs. You may be 
quoted by Pat Schroeder, Joseph Biden, and surgeon generals from both 
parties. Senator Kennedy’s office will call. You should expect to be invited 
to give expert testimony before Congress. As for would-be critics, they’re 
in for grief. 

The same Time magazine story that reported on the nonexistent March 
of Dimes study also informed readers that “between 22 percent and 35 
percent of all visits by females to emergency rooms are for injuries from 
domestic assaults.” This bit of data is one of the most frequently cited 
statistics in the literature on violence against women. It regularly turns 
up in news stories on wife abuse. It is in the brochures from domestic 
violence agencies, and it is on the tip of many politicians’ tongues. Where 
does it come from? The primary source is a 1984 article entitled “Domes¬ 
tic Violence Victims in the Emergency Department,” in the Journal of the 
American Medical Association , 41 Going to the study, we find that it was 
conducted at the Henry Ford Hospital in downtown Detroit. The authors 
candidly inform us that their sample group was not representative of the 
American population at large. Of the 492 patients who responded to a 
questionnaire about domestic violence, they report that 90 percent were 
from inner-city Detroit and 60 percent were unemployed. 42 We also learn 
that the 22 percent figure covers both women and men. Thirty-eight 
percent of those complaining of abuse were men. 43 

The authors of the Detroit study took care to point out its limited 
scope, but the editors at the Journal of the American Medical Association 
who reported their results were not as careful. In a 1990 column called 
“News Update” we read that “22 percent to 35 percent of women pre¬ 
senting with any complaints are there because of symptoms relating to 
ongoing abuse.” In the footnotes they cite the 1984 Detroit study, a paper 
by Evan Stark and Anne Flitcraft, 44 and a 1989 study published in the 
Annals of Emergency Medicine. 

Stark and Flitcraft are perhaps the two best-known researchers on 
domestic battery and emergency room admissions. Their figures for emer¬ 
gency room visits caused by domestic battering go as high as 50 percent. 45 
But they, too, base their numbers on studies at large urban hospitals. 
Their figures are higher than those of the Detroit study because their 


Who Stole Feminism? 

method is to review old medical records and estimate how many women 
were battered—not relying simply on what the woman or the attending 
clinician may have said. They have developed what they call an “index of 
suspicion.” If a woman was assaulted but the records do not say who hit 
her, Stark and Flitcraft classify this as a case of “probable” domestic abuse; 
if she has injuries to her face and torso that are inadequately explained 
(“I ran into a door”), they classify it as “suggestive” of abuse. They say: 
“Overall, the nonabusive injuries tend to be to the extremities, whereas 
the abuse injuries tend to be central (face or torso).” This method, cou¬ 
pled with their exclusive reliance on records from large urban hospitals, 
leads them to very high numbers on abuse. 

Stark and Flitcraft’s methodology is innovative and imaginative, and 
may indeed help practitioners identify more women who are victimized 
by abuse. Still, the methodology is highly subjective. Stark and Flitcraft’s 
tendency to lapse into gender feminist jargon raises questions about their 
objectivity. In an article called “Medicine and Patriarchal Violence,” they 
speculate on why women marry: “Economic discrimination against 
women in capitalist societies—job segregation by sex, marginal employ¬ 
ment and lower wages—drives women to marry, apply their undervalued 
labor time to household drudgery, and to remain dependent on men 
generally, if not on a specific husband, boyfriend or father.” 46 

They worry that women’s shelters may be co-opted by a “bourgeois 
ideology” that diverts women from the need for a “fundamental social 
revolution.” 47 They cite Karl Marx, Franz Fanon, Herbert Marcuse, and 
Michel Foucault as if they are unquestioned authorities on gender politics 
and on capitalism. They criticize Friedrich Engels—but only because they 
say he sounds too much like a “bourgeois moralist.” 48 Flitcraft and Stark 
appear to regard the abuse they claim to have found as the sort of thing 
one should expect to find in a bourgeois capitalist patriarchy. But it often 
works the other way, too: you choose a research methodology that will 
give you the findings you expect. 

The Journal of the American Medical Association cites a third source for 
the 22-35 percent statistic, an article called “Education Is Not Enough: 
A Systems Failure in Protecting Battered Women,” from the Annals of 
Emergency Medicine. That article reports on a small study done of the 
“emergency department records of a medical school serving the inner-city 
population” of Philadelphia. Like Flitcraft and Stark, by using “guess¬ 
timates” and focusing on the segment of the population with highest 
overall rates of violence, the researchers were able to get very high figures 
—up to 30 percent. 

In examining research on battery, one sees that respected medical 

Noble Lies 


periodicals uncritically indulge the feminists in their inflationary tenden¬ 
cies. It is hard to avoid the impression that the medical journals have 
dropped their usual standards when reporting the findings of the battery 
studies. It is pretty clear that studies of this poor caliber on some other 
subject of medical interest and importance would either not be reported 
or be reported with many caveats. To my mind, giving research on “wom¬ 
en’s topics” abnormal latitude is patronizingly sexist. 

In November of 1992 the Family Violence Prevention Fund did a 
survey of all 397 emergency departments in California hospitals. Nurse 
managers were asked, “During a typical month, approximately how many 
patients have been diagnosed with an injury caused by domestic vio¬ 
lence?” The nurses’ estimates ranged from two per month for small hos¬ 
pitals to eight per month for the large hospitals. This finding corresponds 
to Gelles and Straus’s low figure for violence that could require hospital¬ 

Those who did the fund survey did not accept its results; they con¬ 
cluded instead that the nurses are simply not equipped to deal with the 
problem and are vastly understating it. “The low identity rates reported 
in this survey might be explained by the marked lack of domestic vio¬ 
lence-specific training.” One may agree that nurses and doctors do need 
that kind of training. On the other hand, the low rates of battery they 
found sound plausible; for unlike all the other studies on emergency 
rooms and violence, this one actually polled a fair cross section of hospi¬ 

Because many feminist activists and researchers have so great a stake 
in exaggerating the problem and so little compunction in doing so, objec¬ 
tive information on battery is very hard to come by. The Super Bowl story 
was a bald untruth from the start. The “rule of thumb” story is an example 
of revisionist history that feminists happily fell into believing. It reinforces 
their perspective on society, and they tell it as a way of winning converts 
to their angry creed. 

As it is told in the opening essay in one of the most popular textbooks 
in women’s studies, Women: A Feminist Perspective, “The popular expres¬ 
sion ‘rule of thumb’ originated from English common law, which allowed 
a husband to beat his wife with a whip or stick no bigger in diameter 
than his thumb. The husband’s prerogative was incorporated into Amer¬ 
ican law. Several states had statutes that essentially allowed a man to beat 
his wife without interference from the courts.” 49 

The story is supposed to bring home to students the realization that 
they have been bom into a system that tolerates violence against women. 
Sheila Kuehl, the feminist legal activist who had played a central role in 


Who Stole Feminism? 

launching the “Abuse Bowl” hoax, appeared on CNN’s “Sonya Live” four 
months after the incident, holding forth on the supposed history of the 
rule and acclaiming the New Feminists for finally striking back: “I think 
we’re undoing thousands and thousands of years of human history. You 
know the phrase ‘rule of thumb’ that everybody thinks is the standard 
measure of everything? It was a law in England that said you could beat 
your wife with a stick as long as it was no thicker . . . than your thumb.” 50 

Columnists and journalists writing about domestic violence were quick 
to pick up on the anecdote. 

The colloquial phrase “rule of thumb” is supposedly derived from 
the ancient right of a husband to discipline his wife with a rod “no 
thicker than his thumb.” (Time magazine, September 5, 1983) 

A husband’s right to beat his wife is included in Blackstone’s 1768 
codification of the common law. Husbands had the right to “physi¬ 
cally chastise” an errant wife so long as the stick was no bigger than 
their thumb—the so-called “rule of thumb.” (Washington Post, Jan¬ 
uary 3, 1989) 

Violence against women does not have to be the rule of thumb—an 
idiom from an old English law that said a man could beat his wife if 
the stick was no thicker than his thumb. (Atlanta Constitution, April 
22, 1993) 

The “rule of thumb,” however, turns out to be an excellent example of 
what may be called a feminist fiction. 51 It is not to be found in William 
Blackstone’s treatise on English common law. On the contrary, British 
law since the 1700s and our American laws predating the Revolution 
prohibit wife beating, though there have been periods and places in which 
the prohibition was only indifferently enforced. 

That the phrase did not even originate in legal practice could have 
been ascertained by any fact-checker who took the trouble to look it up 
in the Oxford English Dictionary, which notes that the term has been 
used metaphorically for at least three hundred years to refer to any 
method of measurement or technique of estimation derived from experi¬ 
ence rather than science. 

According to Canadian folklorist Philip Hiscock, “The real explanation 
of ‘rule of thumb’ is that it derives from wood workers . . . who knew 
their trade so well they rarely or never fell back on the use of such things 
as rulers. Instead, they would measure things by, for example, the length 
of their thumbs.” Hiscock adds that the phrase came into metaphorical 

Noble Lies 


use by the late seventeenth century. 52 Hiscock could not track the source 
of the idea that the term derives from a principle governing wife beating, 
but he believes it is an example of “modem folklore” and compares it to 
other “back-formed explanations,” such as the claim that asparagus comes 
from “sparrow-grass” or that “ring around the rosy” is about the bubonic 

We shall see that Hiscock’s hunch was correct, but we must begin by 
exonerating William Blackstone (1723-80), the Englishman who codified 
centuries of disparate and inchoate legal customs and practices into the 
elegant and clearly organized tome known as Commentaries on the Laws of 
England. The Commentaries, universally regarded as a classic of legal liter¬ 
ature, became the basis for the development of American law. The so- 
called rule of thumb as a guideline for wife beating does not occur in 
Blackstone’s compendium, although he does refer to an ancient law that 
permitted “domestic chastisement”: 

The husband ... by the old law, might give his wife moderate cor¬ 
rection. For, as he is to answer for her misbehaviour, the law 
thought it reasonable to intrust him with this power of restraining 
her, by domestic chastisement, in the same moderation that a man 
is allowed to correct his apprentices or children. . . . But this power 
of correction was confined within reasonable bounds and the hus¬ 
band was prohibited from using any violence to his wife. . . . But 
with us, in the politer reign of Charles the Second, this power of correc¬ 
tion began to be doubted; and a wife may now have security of the peace 
against her husband. . . . Yet [among] the lower rank of people . . . 
the courts of law will still permit a husband to restrain a wife of her 
liberty in case of any gross misbehaviour [emphasis added]. 53 

Blackstone plainly says that common law prohibited violence against 
wives, although the prohibitions went largely unenforced, especially 
where the “lower rank of people” were concerned. 

In America, there have been laws against wife beating since before the 
Revolution. By 1870, it was illegal in almost every state; but even before 
then, wife-beaters were arrested and punished for assault and battery. 54 
The historian and feminist Elizabeth Pleck observes in a scholarly article 
entitled “Wife-Battering in Nineteenth-Century America”: 

It has often been claimed that wife-beating in nineteenth-century 
America was legal. . . . Actually, though, several states passed stat- 


Who Stole Feminism? 

utes legally prohibiting wife-beating; and at least one statute even 
predates the American Revolution. The Massachusetts Bay Colony 
prohibited wife-beating as early as 1655. The edict states: “No man 
shall strike his wife nor any woman her husband on penalty of such 
fine not exceeding ten pounds for one offense, or such corporal 
punishment as the County shall determine.” 55 

She points out that punishments for wife-beaters could be severe: 
according to an 1882 Maryland statute, the culprit could receive forty 
lashes at the whipping post; in Delaware, the number was thirty. In New 
Mexico, fines ranging from $255 to $1,000 were levied, or sentences of 
one to five years in prison imposed. 56 For most of our history, in fact, 
wife beating has been considered a sin comparable to thievery or adultery. 
Religious groups—especially Protestant groups such as Quakers, Meth¬ 
odists, and Baptists—punished, shunned, and excommunicated wife- 
beaters. Husbands, brothers, and neighbors often took vengeance against 
the batterer. Vigilante parties sometimes abducted wife-beaters and 
whipped them. 57 

Just how did the false account originate, and how did it achieve au¬ 
thority and currency? As with many myths, there is a small core of fact 
surrounded by an accretion of error. In the course of rendering rulings 
on cases before them, two Southern judges had alluded to an “ancient 
law” according to which a man could beat his wife as long as the imple¬ 
ment was not wider than his thumb. The judges, one from North Carolina 
and one from Mississippi, did not accept the authority of the “ancient 
law.” The North Carolina judge referred to it as “barbarism,” and both 
judges found the husband in the case in question guilty of wife abuse. 58 
Nevertheless, their rulings seemed to tolerate the notion that men had a 
measure of latitude in physically chastising their wives. Fortunately, as 
Pleck takes pains to remind us, they were not representative of judicial 
opinion in the rest of the country. 59 

In 1976, Del Martin, a coordinator of the NOW Task Force on Battered 
Women, came across a reference to the two judges and their remarks. 60 
Neither judge had used the phrase “rule of thumb,” but a thumb had 
been mentioned, and Ms. Martin took note of it: 

Our law, based upon the old English common-law doctrines, ex¬ 
plicitly permitted wife-beating for correctional purposes. However, 
certain restrictions did exist. . . . For instance, the common-law doc¬ 
trine had been modified to allow the husband “the right to whip his 

Noble Lies 


wife, provided that he used a switch no bigger than his thumb”—a 

rule of thumb, so to speak. 61 

Ms. Martin had not claimed that the term “rule of thumb” originated 
from common law. Before long, however, the “ancient law” alluded to by 
two obscure Southern judges was being treated as an unchallenged prin¬ 
ciple of both British and American law, and journalists and academics 
alike were bandying the notion about. Feminist Terry Davidson, in an 
article entitled “Wife Beating: A Recurring Phenomenon Throughout His¬ 
tory,” claims that “one of the reasons nineteenth century British wives 
were dealt with so harshly by their husbands and by their legal system 
was the ‘rule of thumb’ ” 62 and castigates Blackstone himself. “Blackstone 
saw nothing unreasonable about the wife-beating law. In fact, he believed 
it to be quite moderate.” 63 

These interpretive errors were given added authority by a group of 
scholars and lawyers who, in 1982, prepared a report on wife abuse for 
the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Under the Rule oj Thumb: 
Battered Women and the Administration of Justice —A Report of the United 
States Commission on Civil Rights. On the second page, they note: “Ameri¬ 
can law is built upon the British common law that condoned wife beating 
and even prescribed the weapon to be used. This ‘rule of thumb’ stipu¬ 
lated that a man could only beat his wife with a ‘rod not thicker than his 
thumb.’ ” 64 It went on to speak of Blackstone as the jurist who “greatly 
influenced the making of the law in the American colonies [and who] 
commented on the ‘rule of thumb,’ ” justifying the rule by noting that 
“the law thought it reasonable to intrust [the husband] with this power 
of. . . chastisement, in the same moderation that a man is allowed to 
correct his apprentices or children.” 65 

The publication of the report established the feminist fable about the 
origins of the term in popular lore, and the misogyny of Blackstone and 
“our law” as “fact.” Misstatements about the “rule of thumb” still appear 
in the popular press. 

The same 1993 Time magazine article that popularized the nonexistent 
March of Dimes study on domestic violence and birth defects and re¬ 
ported that “between 22 percent and 35 percent of all visits by females to 
emergency rooms are for injuries from domestic assaults” also cited New 
York University law professor Holly Maguigan: “We talk about the notion 
of the rule of thumb, forgetting that it had to do with the restriction on a 
man’s right to use a weapon against his wife: he couldn’t use a rod that 
was larger than his thumb.” 66 Professor Maguigan’s law students would 
do well to check their Blackstone. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

We react to batterers with revulsion—first, because of what they do, 
which is ugly and cruel; and second, because of what they are, which is 
cowardly and often sadistic. As those working in the social services and 
the shelters well know, helping battered women is as difficult as it is 
exigent. Resources are limited, and strategies for help are often controver¬ 
sial. On a wider canvas, we need good legislation and good public policy 
as well as funds earmarked toward the problem. But sound public policy 
on battery cannot be made without credible and trustworthy information. 
In promulgating sensational untruths, the gender feminists systematically 
diminish public trust. Experts concerned about battery and devoted to 
alleviating it are worried. As Michael Lindsey said to Ken Ringle, “When 
people make crazy statements like this, the credibility of the whole cause 
can go right out the window.” 

Chapter 10 

Rape Research 

I apologize to the reader for the clinical tone of this chapter. As a crime 
against the person, rape is uniquely horrible in its long-term effects. The 
anguish it brings is often followed by an abiding sense of fear and shame. 
Discussions of the data on rape inevitably seem callous. How can one 
quantify the sense of deep violation behind the statistics? Terms like 
incidence and prevalence are statistical jargon; once we use them, we nec¬ 
essarily abstract ourselves from the misery. Yet, it remains clear that to 
arrive at intelligent policies and strategies to decrease the occurrence of 
rape, we have no alternative but to gather and analyze data, and to do so 
does not make us callous. Truth is no enemy to compassion, and false¬ 
hood is no friend. 

Some feminists routinely refer to American society as a “rape culture.” 
Yet estimates on the prevalence of rape vary wildly. According to the FBI 
Uniform Crime Report, there were 102,560 reported rapes or attempted 
rapes in 1990. 1 The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 130,000 
women were victims of rape in 1990. 2 A Harris poll sets the figure at 


Who Stole Feminism? 

380,000 rapes or sexual assaults for 1993. 3 According to a study by the 
National Victims Center, there were 683,000 completed forcible rapes in 
1990. 4 The Justice Department says that 8 percent of all American women 
will be victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. The radical 
feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, however, claims that “by 
conservative definition [rape] happens to almost half of all women at least 
once in their lives.” 5 

Who is right? Feminist activists and others have plausibly argued that 
the relatively low figures of the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics are 
not trustworthy. The FBI survey is based on the number of cases reported 
to the police, but rape is among the most underreported of crimes. The 
Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Survey is based on interviews 
with 100,000 randomly selected women. It, too, is said to be flawed 
because the women were never directly questioned about rape. Rape was 
discussed only if the woman happened to bring it up in the course of 
answering more general questions about criminal victimization. The Jus¬ 
tice Department has changed its method of questioning to meet this 
criticism, so we will know in a year or two whether this has a significant 
effect on its numbers. Clearly, independent studies on the incidence and 
prevalence of rape are badly needed. Unfortunately, research groups in¬ 
vestigating in this area have no common definition of rape, and the results 
so far have led to confusion and acrimony. 

Of the rape studies by nongovernment groups, the two most frequently 
cited are the 1985 Ms. magazine report by Mary Koss and the 1992 
National Women’s Study by Dr. Dean Kilpatrick of the Crime Victims 
Research and Treatment Center at the Medical School of South Carolina. 
In 1982, Mary Koss, then a professor of psychology at Kent State Univer¬ 
sity in Ohio, published an article on rape in which she expressed the 
orthodox gender feminist view that “rape represents an extreme behavior 
but one that is on a continuum with normal male behavior within the culture” 
(my emphasis). 6 Some well-placed feminist activists were impressed by 
her. As Koss tells it, she received a phone call out of the blue inviting her 
to lunch with Gloria Steinem. 7 For Koss, the lunch was a turning point. 
Ms. magazine had decided to do a national rape survey on college cam¬ 
puses, and Koss was chosen to direct it. Koss’s findings would become 
the most frequently cited research on women’s victimization, not so much 
by established scholars in the field of rape research as by journalists, 
politicians, and activists. 

Koss and her associates interviewed slightly more than three thousand 
college women, randomly selected nationwide. 8 The young women were 
asked ten questions about sexual violation. These were followed by sev- 

Rape Research 


eral questions about the precise nature of the violation. Had they been 
drinking? What were their emotions during and after the event? What 
forms of resistance did they use? How would they label the event? Koss 
counted anyone who answered affirmatively to any of the last three ques¬ 
tions as having been raped: 

8. Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because 
a man gave you alcohol or drugs? 

9. Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because 
a man threatened or used some degree of physical force (twisting 
your arm, holding you down, etc.) to make you? 

10. Have you had sexual acts (anal or oral intercourse or penetration 
by objects other than the penis) when you didn’t want to because 
a man threatened or used some degree of physical force (twisting 
your arm, holding you down, etc.) to make you? 

Koss and her colleagues concluded that 15.4 percent of respondents 
had been raped, and that 12.1 percent had been victims of attempted 
rape. 9 Thus, a total of 27.5 percent of the respondents were determined 
to have been victims of rape or attempted rape because they gave answers 
that fit Koss’s criteria for rape (penetration by penis, finger, or other object 
under coercive influence such as physical force, alcohol, or threats). How¬ 
ever, that is not how the so-called rape victims saw it. Only about a 
quarter of the women Koss calls rape victims labeled what happened to 
them as rape. According to Koss, the answers to the follow-up questions 
revealed that “only 27 percent” of the women she counted as having been 
raped labeled themselves as rape victims. 10 Of the remainder, 49 percent 
said it was “miscommunication,” 14 percent said it was a “crime but not 
rape,” and 11 percent said they “don’t feel victimized.” 11 

In line with her view of rape as existing on a continuum of male sexual 
aggression, Koss also asked: “Have you given in to sex play (fondling, 
kissing, or petting, but not intercourse) when you didn’t want to because 
you were overwhelmed by a man’s continual arguments and pressure?” 
To this question, 53.7 percent responded affirmatively, and they were 
counted as having been sexually victimized. 

The Koss study, released in 1988, became known as the Ms. Report. 
Here is how the Ms. Foundation characterizes the results: “The Ms. proj¬ 
ect—the largest scientific investigation ever undertaken on the subject— 
revealed some disquieting statistics, including this astonishing fact: one 
in four female respondents had an experience that met the legal definition 
of rape or attempted rape.” 12 


Who Stole Feminism? 

“One in four” has since become the official figure on women’s rape 
victimization cited in women’s studies departments, rape crisis centers, 
women’s magazines, and on protest buttons and posters. Susan Faludi 
defended it in a Newsweek story on sexual correctness. 13 Naomi Wolf 
refers to it in The Beauty Myth, calculating that acquaintance rape is “more 
common than lefthandedness, alcoholism, and heart attacks.” 14 “One in 
four” is chanted in “Take Back the Night” processions, and it is the 
number given in the date rape brochures handed out at freshman orien¬ 
tation at colleges and universities around the country. 15 Politicians, from 
Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, a Democrat, to Republican Congress¬ 
man Jim Ramstad of Minnesota, cite it regularly, and it is the primary 
reason for the Title IV, “Safe Campuses for Women” provision of the 
Violence Against Women Act of 1993, which provides twenty million 
dollars to combat rape on college campuses. 16 

When Neil Gilbert, a professor at Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, 
first read the “one in four” figure in the school newspaper, he was con¬ 
vinced it could not be accurate. The results did not tally with the findings 
of almost all previous research on rape. When he read the study he was 
able to see where the high figures came from and why Koss’s approach 
was unsound. 

He noticed, for example, that Koss and her colleagues counted as 
victims of rape any respondent who answered “yes” to the question “Have 
you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave 
you alcohol or drugs?” That opened the door wide to regarding as a rape 
victim anyone who regretted her liaison of the previous night. If your 
date mixes a pitcher of margaritas and encourages you to drink with him 
and you accept a drink, have you been “administered” an intoxicant, and 
has your judgment been impaired? Certainly, if you pass out and are 
molested, one would call it rape. But if you drink and, while intoxicated, 
engage in sex that you later come to regret, have you been raped? Koss 
does not address these questions specifically, she merely counts your date 
as a rapist and you as a rape statistic if you drank with your date and 
regret having had sex with him. As Gilbert points out, the question, as 
Koss posed it, is far too ambiguous: 

What does having sex “because” a man gives you drugs or alcohol 
signify? A positive response does not indicate whether duress, intox¬ 
ication, force, or the threat of force were present; whether the wom¬ 
an’s judgment or control were substantially impaired; or whether 
the man purposefully got the woman drunk in order to prevent her 
resistance to sexual advances. . . . While the item could have been 

Rape Research 


clearly worded to denote “intentional incapacitation of the victim,” 
as the question stands it would require a mind reader to detect 
whether any affirmative response corresponds to this legal definition 
of rape. 17 

Koss, however, insisted that her criteria conformed with the legal def¬ 
initions of rape used in some states, and she cited in particular the statute 
on rape of her own state, Ohio: “No person shall engage in sexual conduct 
with another person . . . when ... for the purpose of preventing resis¬ 
tance the offender substantially impairs the other person’s judgment or 
control by administering any drug or intoxicant to the other person” 
(Ohio revised code 1980, 2907.01A, 2907.02). 18 

Two reporters from the Blade —a small, progressive Toledo, Ohio, 
newspaper that has won awards for the excellence of its investigative 
articles—were also not convinced that the “one in four” figure was accu¬ 
rate. They took a close look at Koss’s study and at several others that were 
being cited to support the alarming tidings of widespread sexual abuse 
on college campuses. In a special three-part series on rape called “The 
Making of an Epidemic,” published in October 1992, the reporters, Nara 
Shoenberg and Sam Roe, revealed that Koss was quoting the Ohio statute 
in a very misleading way: she had stopped short of mentioning the qual¬ 
ifying clause of the statute, which specifically excludes “the situation 
where a person plies his intended partner with drink or drugs in hopes 
that lowered inhibition might lead to a liaison.” 19 Koss now concedes that 
question eight was badly worded. Indeed, she told the Blade reporters, 
“At the time I viewed the question as legal; I now concede that it’s 
ambiguous.” 20 That concession should have been followed by the admis¬ 
sion that her survey may be inaccurate by a factor of two: for, as Koss 
herself told the Blade, once you remove the positive responses to question 
eight, the finding that one in four college women is a victim of rape or 
attempted rape drops to one in nine. 21 

For Gilbert, the most serious indication that something was basically 
awry in the Ms./Koss study was that the majority of women she classified 
as having been raped did not believe they had been raped. Of those Koss 
counts as having been raped, only 27 percent thought they had been; 73 
percent did not say that what happened to them was rape. In effect, Koss 
and her followers present us with a picture of confused young women 
overwhelmed by threatening males who force their attentions on them 
during the course of a date but are unable or unwilling to classify their 
experience as rape. Does that picture fit the average female undergradu¬ 
ate? For that matter, does it plausibly apply to the larger community? As 


Who Stole Feminism? 

the journalist Cathy Young observes, “Women have sex after initial reluc¬ 
tance for a number of reasons . . . fear of being beaten up by their dates 
is rarely reported as one of them.” 22 

Katie Roiphe, a graduate student in English at Princeton and author of 
The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus, argues along simi¬ 
lar lines when she claims that Koss had no right to reject the judgment of 
the college women who didn’t think they were raped. But Katha Pollitt of 
The Nation defends Koss, pointing out that in many cases people are 
wronged without knowing it. Thus we do not say that “victims of other 
injustices—fraud, malpractice, job discrimination—have suffered no 
wrong as long as they are unaware of the law.” 23 

Pollitt’s analogy is faulty, however. If Jane has ugly financial dealings 
with Tom and an expert explains to Jane that Tom has defrauded her, 
then Jane usually thanks the expert for having enlightened her about the 
legal facts. To make her case, Pollitt would have to show that the rape 
victims who were unaware that they were raped would accept Koss’s 
judgment that they really were. But that has not been shown; Koss did 
not enlighten the women she counts as rape victims, and they did not say 
“now that you explain it, we can see we were.” 

Koss and Pollitt make a technical (and in fact dubious) legal point: 
women are ignorant about what counts as rape. Roiphe makes a straight¬ 
forward human point: the women were there, and they know best how 
to judge what happened to them. Since when do feminists consider “law” 
to override women’s experience? 

Koss also found that 42 percent of those she counted as rape victims 
went on to have sex with their attackers on a later occasion. For victims 
of attempted rape, the figure for subsequent sex with reported assailants 
was 35 percent. Koss is quick to point out that “it is not known if [the 
subsequent sex] was forced or voluntary” and that most of the relation¬ 
ships “did eventually break up subsequent to the victimization.” 24 But of 
course, most college relationships break up eventually for one reason or 
another. Yet, instead of taking these young women at their word, Koss 
casts about for explanations of why so many “raped” women would return 
to their assailants, implying that they may have been coerced. She ends 
by treating her subjects’ rejection of her findings as evidence that they 
were confused and sexually naive. There is a more respectful explanation. 
Since most of those Koss counts as rape victims did not regard themselves 
as having been raped, why not take this fact and the fact that so many 
went back to their partners as reasonable indications that they had not 
been raped to begin with? 

The Toledo reporters calculated that if you eliminate the affirmative 

Rape Research 


responses to the alcohol or drugs question, and also subtract from Koss’s 
results the women who did not think they were raped, her one in four 
figure for rape and attempted rape “drops to between one in twenty-two 
and one in thirty-three.” 25 

The other frequently cited nongovernment rape study, the National 
Women’s Study, was conducted by Dean Kilpatrick. From an interview 
sample of 4,008 women, the study projected that there were 683,000 
rapes in 1990. As to prevalence, it concluded that “in America, one out 
of every eight adult women, or at least 12.1 million American women, 
has been the victim of forcible rape sometime in her lifetime.” 26 

Unlike the Koss report, which tallied rape attempts as well as rapes, 
the Kilpatrick study focused exclusively on rape. Interviews were con¬ 
ducted by phone, by female interviewers. A woman who agreed to be¬ 
come part of the study heard the following from the interviewer: “Women 
do not always report such experiences to police or discuss them with 
family or friends. The person making the advances isn’t always a stranger, 
but can be a friend, boyfriend, or even a family member. Such experiences 
can occur anytime in a woman’s life—even as a child.” 27 Pointing out 
that she wants to hear about any such experiences “regardless of how 
long ago it happened or who made the advances,” the interviewer pro¬ 
ceeds to ask four questions: 

1. Has a man or boy ever made you have sex by using force or threat¬ 
ening to harm you or someone close to you? Just so there is no 
mistake, by sex we mean putting a penis in your vagina. 

2. Has anyone ever made you have oral sex by force or threat of harm? 
Just so there is no mistake, by oral sex we mean that a man or boy 
put his penis in your mouth or somebody penetrated your vagina 
or anus with his mouth or tongue. 

3. Has anyone ever made you have anal sex by force or threat of harm? 

4. Has anyone ever put fingers or objects in your vagina or anus 
against your will by using force or threat? 

Any woman who answered yes to any one of the four questions was 
classified as a victim of rape. 

This seems to be a fairly straightforward and well-designed survey that 
provides a window into the private horror that many women, especially 
very young women, experience. One of the more disturbing findings of 
the survey was that 61 percent of the victims said they were seventeen or 
younger when the rape occurred. 

There is, however, one flaw that affects the significance of Kilpatrick’s 


Who Stole Feminism? 

findings. An affirmative answer to any one of the first three questions 
does reasonably put one in the category of rape victim. The fourth is 
problematic, for it includes cases in which a boy penetrated a girl with 
his finger, against her will, in a heavy petting situation. Certainly the boy 
behaved badly. But is he a rapist? Probably neither he nor his date would 
say so. Yet, the survey classifies him as a rapist and her as a rape victim. 

I called Dr. Kilpatrick and asked him about the fourth question. 
“Well,” he said, “if a woman is forcibly penetrated by an object such as a 
broomstick, we would call that rape.” 

“So would I,” I said. “But isn’t there a big difference between being 
violated by a broomstick and being violated by a finger?” Dr. Kilpatrick 
acknowledged this: “We should have split out fingers versus objects,” he 
said. Still, he assured me that the question did not significantly affect the 
outcome. But I wondered. The study had found an epidemic of rape 
among teenagers—just the age group most likely to get into situations 
like the one I have described. 

The more serious worry is that Kilpatrick’s findings, and many other 
findings on rape, vary wildly unless the respondents are explicitly asked 
whether they have been raped. In 1993, Louis Harris and Associates did 
a telephone survey and came up with quite different results. Harris was 
commissioned by the Commonwealth Fund to do a study of women’s 
health. As we shall see, their high figures on women’s depression and 
psychological abuse by men caused a stir. 28 But their finding on rape went 
altogether unnoticed. Among the questions asked of its random sample 
population of 2,500 women was, “In the last five years, have you been a 
victim of a rape or sexual assault?” Two percent of the respondents said 
yes; 98 percent said no. Since attempted rape counts as sexual assault, 
the combined figures for rape and attempted rape would be 1.9 million 
over five years or 380,000 for a single year. Since there are approximately 
twice as many attempted rapes as completed rapes, the Commonwealth/ 
Harris figure for completed rapes would come to approximately 190,000. 
That is dramatically lower than Kilpatrick’s finding of 683,000 completed 
forcible rapes. 

The Harris interviewer also asked a question about acquaintance and 
marital rape that is worded very much like Kilpatrick’s and Koss’s: “In 
the past year, did your partner ever try to, or force you to, have sexual 
relations by using physical force, such as holding you down, or hitting 
you, or threatening to hit you, or not?” 29 Not a single respondent of the 
Harris poll’s sample answered yes. 

How to explain the discrepancy? True, women are often extremely 
reluctant to talk about sexual violence that they have experienced. But 

Rape Research 


the Harris pollsters had asked a lot of other awkward personal questions 
to which the women responded with candor: 6 percent said they had 
considered suicide, 5 percent admitted to using hard drugs, 10 percent 
said they had been sexually abused when they were growing up. I don’t 
have the answer, though it seems obvious to me that such wide variances 
should make us appreciate the difficulty of getting reliable figures on the 
risk of rape from the research. That the real risk should be known is 
obvious. The Blade reporters interviewed students on their fears and 
found them anxious and bewildered. “It makes a big difference if it’s one 
in three or one in fifty,” said April Groff of the University of Michigan, 
who says she is “very scared.” “I’d have to say, honestly, I’d think about 
rape a lot less if I knew the number was one in fifty.” 30 

When the Blade reporters asked Kilpatrick why he had not asked 
women whether they had been raped, he told them there had been no 
time in the thirty-five-minute interview. “That was probably something 
that ended up on the cutting-room floor.” 31 But Kilpatrick’s exclusion of 
such a question resulted in very much higher figures. When pressed 
about why he omitted it from a study for which he had received a million- 
dollar federal grant, he replied, “If people think that is a key question, let 
them get their own grant and do their own study.” 32 

Kilpatrick had done an earlier study in which respondents were ex¬ 
plicitly asked whether they had been raped. That study showed a rela¬ 
tively low prevalence of 5 percent—one in twenty—and it got very little 
publicity. 33 Kilpatrick subsequently abandoned his former methodology 
in favor of the Ms./Koss method, which allows the surveyor to decide 
whether a rape occurred. Like Koss, he used an expanded definition of 
rape (both include penetration by a finger). Kilpatrick’s new approach 
yielded him high numbers (one in eight), and citations in major news¬ 
papers around the country. His graphs were reproduced in Time magazine 
under the heading, “Unsettling Report on an Epidemic of Rape.” 34 Now 
he shares with Koss the honor of being a principal expert cited by media, 
politicians, and activists. 

There are many researchers who study rape victimization, but their 
relatively low figures generate no headlines. The reporters from the Blade 
interviewed several scholars whose findings on rape were not sensational 
but whose research methods were sound and were not based on contro¬ 
versial definitions. Eugene Kanin, a retired professor of sociology from 
Purdue University and a pioneer in the field of acquaintance rape, is upset 
by the intrusion of politics into the field of inquiry: “This is highly con¬ 
voluted activism rather than social science research.” 35 Professor Margaret 
Gordon of the University of Washington did a study in 1981 that came 


Who Stole Feminism? 

up with relatively low figures for rape (one in fifty). She tells of the 
negative reaction to her findings: “There was some pressure—at least I 
felt pressure—to have rape be as prevalent as possible. . I’m a pretty 
strong feminist, but one of the things I was fighting was that the really 
avid feminists were trying to get me to say that things were worse than 
they really are.” 36 Dr. Linda George of Duke University also found rela¬ 
tively low rates of rape (one in seventeen), even though she asked ques¬ 
tions very close to Kilpatrick’s. She told the Blade she is concerned that 
many of her colleagues treat the high numbers as if they are “cast in 
stone.” 37 Dr. Naomi Breslau, director of research in the psychiatry de¬ 
partment at the Henry Ford Health Science Center in Detroit, who also 
found low numbers, feels that it is important to challenge the popular 
view that higher numbers are necessarily more accurate. Dr. Breslau sees 
the need for a new and more objective program of research: “It’s really an 
open question. . . . We really don’t know a whole lot about it.” 38 

An intrepid few in the academy have publicly criticized those who 
have proclaimed a “rape crisis” for irresponsibly exaggerating the problem 
and causing needless anxiety. Camille Paglia claims that they have been 
especially hysterical about date rape: “Date rape has swelled into a cata¬ 
strophic cosmic event, like an asteroid threatening the earth in a fifties 
science-fiction film.” 39 She bluntly rejects the contention that “ ‘No’ al¬ 
ways means no. . . .‘No’ has always been, and always will be, part of the 
dangerous, alluring courtship ritual of sex and seduction, observable even 
in the animal kingdom.” 40 

Paglia’s dismissal of date rape hype infuriates campus feminists, for 
whom the rape crisis is very real. On most campuses, date-rape groups 
hold meetings, marches, rallies. Victims are “survivors,” and their friends 
are “co-survivors” who also suffer and need counseling. 41 At some rape 
awareness meetings, women who have not yet been date raped are re¬ 
ferred to as “potential survivors.” Their male classmates are “potential 
rapists.” 42 

Has date rape in fact reached critical proportions on the college cam¬ 
pus? Having heard about an outbreak of rape at Columbia University, 
Peter Heilman of New York magazine decided to do a story about it. 43 To 
his surprise, he found that campus police logs showed no evidence of it 
whatsoever. Only two rapes were reported to the Columbia campus police 
in 1990, and in both cases, charges were dropped for lack of evidence. 
Heilman checked the figures at other campuses and found that in 1990 
fewer than one thousand rapes were reported to campus security on 
college campuses in the entire country.™ That works out to fewer than one- 
half of one rape per campus. Yet despite the existence of a rape crisis 

Rape Research 


center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital two blocks from Columbia Uni¬ 
versity, campus feminists pressured the administration into installing an 
expensive rape crisis center inside the university. Peter Heilman describes 
a typical night at the center in February 1992: “On a recent Saturday 
night, a shift of three peer counselors sat in the Rape Crisis Center—one 
a backup to the other two. . . . Nobody called; nobody came. As if in a 
firehouse, the three women sat alertly and waited for disaster to strike. It 
was easy to forget these were the fading hours of the eve of Valentine’s 
Day.” 45 

In The Morning After, Katie Roiphe describes the elaborate measures 
taken to prevent sexual assaults at Princeton. Blue lights have been in¬ 
stalled around the campus, freshman women are issued whistles at ori¬ 
entation. There are marches, rape counseling sessions, emergency 
telephones. But as Roiphe tells it, Princeton is a very safe town, and 
whenever she walked across a deserted golf course to get to classes, she 
was more afraid of the wild geese than of a rapist. Roiphe reports that 
between 1982 and 1993 only two rapes were reported to the campus 
police. And, when it comes to violent attacks in general, male students 
are actually more likely to be the victims. Roiphe sees the campus rape 
crisis movement as a phenomenon of privilege: these young women have 
had it all, and when they find out that the world can be dangerous and 
unpredictable, they are outraged: 

Many of these girls [in rape marches] came to Princeton from Milton 
and Exeter. Many of their lives have been full of summers in Nan¬ 
tucket and horseback-riding lessons. These are women who have 
grown up expecting fairness, consideration, and politeness. 46 

The Blade story on rape is unique in contemporary journalism because 
the authors dared to question the popular feminist statistics on this terri¬ 
bly sensitive problem. But to my mind, the important and intriguing story 
they tell about unreliable advocacy statistics is overshadowed by the even 
more important discoveries they made about the morally indefensible way 
that public funds for combatting rape are being allocated. Schoenberg 
and Roe studied Toledo neighborhoods and calculated that women in the 
poorer areas were nearly thirty times more likely to be raped than those 
in the wealthy areas. They also found that campus rape rates were thirty 
times lower than the rape rates for the general population of eighteen- to 
twenty-four-year-olds in Toledo. The attention and the money are dispro¬ 
portionately going to those least at risk. According to the Blade reporters: 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Across the nation, public universities are spending millions of dol¬ 
lars a year on rapidly growing programs to combat rape. Videos, 
self-defense classes, and full-time rape educators are commonplace. 

. . . But the new spending comes at a time when community rape 
programs—also dependent on tax dollars—are desperately scram¬ 
bling for money to help populations at much higher risk than col¬ 
lege students. 47 

One obvious reason for this inequity is that feminist advocates come 
largely from the middle class and so exert great pressure to protect their 
own. To render their claims plausible, they dramatize themselves as vic¬ 
tims—survivors or “potential survivors.” Another device is to expand the 
definition of rape (as Koss and Kilpatrick do). Dr. Andrea Parrot, chair of 
the Cornell University Coalition Advocating Rape Education and author 
of Sexual Assault on Campus, begins her date rape prevention manual with 
the words, “Any sexual intercourse without mutual desire is a form of 
rape. Anyone who is psychologically or physically pressured into sexual 
contact on any occasion is as much a victim as the person who is attacked 
in the streets” (my emphasis). 48 By such a definition, privileged young 
women in our nation’s colleges gain moral parity with the real victims in 
the community at large. Parrot’s novel conception of rape also justifies 
the salaries being paid to all the new personnel in the burgeoning college 
date rape industry. After all, it is much more pleasant to deal with rape 
from an office in Princeton than on the streets of downtown Trenton. 

Another reason that college women are getting a lion’s share of public 
resources for combatting rape is that collegiate money, though originally 
public, is allocated by college officials. As the Blade points out: 

Public universities have multi-million dollar budgets heavily subsi¬ 
dized by state dollars. School officials decide how the money is 
spent, and are eager to address the high-profile issues like rape on 
campus. In contrast, rape crisis centers—nonprofit agencies that 
provide free services in the community—must appeal directly to 
federal and state governments for money. 49 

Schoenberg and Roe describe typical cases of women in communities 
around the country—in Madison, Wisconsin, in Columbus, Ohio, in 
Austin, Texas, and in Newport, Kentucky—who have been raped and 
have to wait months for rape counseling services. There were three rapes 
reported to police at the University of Minnesota in 1992; in New York 
City there were close to three thousand. The University of Minnesota has 

Rape Research 


a rape crisis hot line, but New York City does not. The Blade reports that 
the sponsors of the Violence Against Women Act of 1993 reflect the same 
unjust priorities. They point out that “if Senator Biden has his way, 
campuses will get at least twenty million more dollars for rape education 
and prevention.” In the meantime, Gail Rawlings of the Pennsylvania 
Coalition Against Rape complains that the bill guarantees nothing for 
basic services, counseling, and support groups for women in the larger 
community: “It’s ridiculous. This bill is supposed to encourage prosecu¬ 
tion of violence against women, [and] one of the main keys is to have 
support for the victim. ... I just don’t understand why [the money] isn’t 
there.” 50 

Because rape is the most underreported of crimes, the campus activists 
tell us we cannot learn the true dimensions of campus rape from police 
logs or hospital reports. But as an explanation of why there are so few 
known and proven incidents of rape on campus, that won’t do. Under¬ 
reporting of sexual crimes is not confined to the campus, and wherever 
there is a high level of reported rape—say in poor urban communities 
where the funds for combatting rape are almost nonexistent—the level of 
underreported rape will be greater still. No matter how you look at it, 
women on campus do not face anywhere near the same risk of rape as 
women elsewhere. The fact that college women continue to get a dispro¬ 
portionate and ever-growing share of the very scarce public resources 
allocated for rape prevention and for aid to rape victims underscores how 
disproportionately powerful and self-preoccupied the campus feminists are 
despite all their vaunted concern for “women” writ large. 

Once again we see what a long way the New Feminism has come from 
Seneca Falls. The privileged and protected women who launched the 
women’s movement, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony 
took pains to point out, did not regard themselves as the primary victims 
of gender inequity: “They had souls large enough to feel the wrongs of 
others without being scarified in their own flesh.” They did not act as if 
they had “in their own experience endured the coarser forms of tyranny 
resulting from unjust laws, or association with immoral and unscrupulous 
men.” 51 Ms. Stanton and Ms. Anthony concentrated their efforts on the 
Hester Vaughns and the other defenseless women whose need for gender 
equity was urgent and unquestionable. 

Much of the unattractive self-preoccupation and victimology that we 
find on today’s campuses have been irresponsibly engendered by the 
inflated and scarifying “one in four” statistic on campus rape. In some 


Who Stole Feminism? 

cases the campaign of alarmism arouses exasperation of another kind. In 
an article in the New York Times Magazine, Katie Roiphe questioned Koss’s 
figures: “If 25 percent of my women friends were really being raped, 
wouldn’t I know it?” 52 She also questioned the feminist perspective on 
male/female relations: “These feminists are endorsing their own utopian 
vision of sexual relations: sex without struggle, sex without power, sex 
without persuasion, sex without pursuit. If verbal coercion constitutes 
rape, then the word rape itself expands to include any kind of sex a 
woman experiences as negative.” 53 

The publication of Ms. Roiphe’s piece incensed the campus feminists. 
“The New York Times should be shot,” railed Laurie Fink, a professor at 
Kenyon College. 54 “Don’t invite [Katie Roiphe] to your school if you can 
prevent it,” counseled Pauline Bart of the University of Illinois. 55 Gail 
Dines, a women’s studies professor and date rape activist from Wheelock 
College, called Roiphe a traitor who has sold out to the “white male 
patriarchy.” 56 

Other critics, such as Camille Paglia and Berkeley professor of social 
welfare Neil Gilbert, have been targeted for demonstrations, boycotts, and 
denunciations. Gilbert began to publish his critical analyses of the Ms./ 
Koss study in 1990. 57 Many feminist activists did not look kindly on 
Gilbert’s challenge to their “one in four” figure. A date rape clearinghouse 
in San Francisco devotes itself to “refuting” Gilbert; it sends out masses 
of literature attacking him. It advertises at feminist conferences with green 
and orange fliers bearing the headline stop it, bitch! The words are not 
Gilbert’s, but the tactic is an effective way of drawing attention to his 
work. At one demonstration against Gilbert on the Berkeley campus, 
students chanted, “Cut it out or cut it off,” and carried signs that read, 
kill neil gilbert! 58 Sheila Kuehl, the director of the California Women’s 
Law Center, confided to readers of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, “I found 
myself wishing that Gilbert, himself, might be raped and ... be told, to 
his face, it had never happened.” 59 

The findings being cited in support of an “epidemic” of campus rape 
are the products of advocacy research. Those promoting the research are 
bitterly opposed to seeing it exposed as inaccurate. On the other hand, 
rape is indeed the most underreported of crimes. We need the truth for 
policy to be fair and effective. If the feminist advocates would stop mud¬ 
dying the waters we could probably get at it. 

High rape numbers serve the gender feminists by promoting the belief 
that American culture is sexist and misogynist. But the common assump¬ 
tion that rape is a manifestation of misogyny is open to question. Assume 
for the sake of argument that Koss and Kilpatrick are right and that the 

Rape Research 


lower numbers of the FBI, the Justice Department, the Harris poll, of 
Kilpatrick’s earlier study, and the many other studies mentioned earlier 
are wrong. Would it then follow that we are a “patriarchal rape culture”? 
Not necessarily. American society is exceptionally violent, and the vio¬ 
lence is not specifically patriarchal or misogynist. According to Interna¬ 
tional Crime Rates, a report from the United States Department of Justice, 
“Crimes of violence (homicide, rape, and robbery) are four to nine times 
more frequent in the United States than they are in Europe. The U.S. 
crime rate for rape was . . . roughly seven times higher than the average 
for Europe.” 60 The incidence of rape is many times lower in such coun¬ 
tries as Greece, Portugal, or Japan—countries far more overtly patriarchal 
than ours. 

It might be said that places like Greece, Portugal, and Japan do not 
keep good records on rape. But the fact is that Greece, Portugal, and 
Japan are significantly less violent than we are. I have walked through the 
equivalent of Central Park in Kyoto at night. I felt safe, and I was safe, 
not because Japan is a feminist society (it is the opposite), but because 
crime is relatively rare. The international studies on violence suggest that 
patriarchy is not the primary cause of rape but that rape, along with other 
crimes against the person, is caused by whatever it is that makes our 
society among the most violent of the so-called advanced nations. 

But the suggestion that criminal violence, not patriarchal misogyny, is 
the primary reason for our relatively high rate of rape is unwelcome to 
gender feminists like Susan Faludi, who insist, in the face of all evidence 
to the contrary, that “the highest rate of rapes appears in cultures that 
have the highest degree of gender inequality, where sexes are segregated 
at work, that have patriarchal religions, that celebrate all-male sporting 
and hunting rituals, i.e., a society such as us.” 61 

In the spring of 1992, Peter Jennings hosted an ABC special on the 
subject of rape. Catharine MacKinnon, Susan Faludi, Naomi Wolf, and 
Mary Koss were among the panelists, along with John Leo of U.S. News 
& World Report. When MacKinnon trotted out the claim that 25 percent 
of women are victims of rape, Mr. Leo replied, “I don’t believe those 
statistics. . . . That’s totally false.” 62 MacKinnon countered, “That means 
you don’t believe women. It’s not cooked, it’s interviews with women by 
people who believed them when they said it. That’s the methodology.” 63 
The accusation that Leo did not believe “women” silenced him, as it was 
meant to. But as we have seen, believing what women actually say is 
precisely not the methodology by which some feminist advocates get their 
incendiary statistics. 

MacKinnon’s next volley was certainly on target. She pointed out that 


Who Stole Feminism? 

the statistics she had cited “are starting to become nationally accepted by 
the government.” That claim could not be gainsaid, and MacKinnon may 
be pardoned for crowing about it. The government, like the media, is 
accepting the gender feminist claims and is introducing legislation whose 
“whole purpose ... is to raise the consciousness of the American pub¬ 
lic.” 64 The words are Joseph Biden’s, and the bill to which he referred— 
the Violence Against Women Act—introduces the principle that violence 
against women is much like racial violence, calling for civil as well as 
criminal remedies. Like a lynching or a cross burning, an act of violence 
by a man against a woman would be prosecuted as a crime of gender 
bias, under title 3 of the bill: “State and Federal criminal laws do not 
adequately protect against the bias element of gender-motivated crimes, 
which separates these crimes from acts of random violence, nor do those 
laws adequately provide victims of gender-motivated crimes the oppor¬ 
tunity to vindicate their interests.” 65 Whereas ordinary violence is “ran¬ 
dom,” “violence against women” may be discriminatory in the literal sense 
in which we speak of a bigot as discriminating against someone because 
of race or religion. 

Mary Koss and Sarah Buel were invited to give testimony on the subject 
of violence against women before the Flouse Judiciary Committee. Dean 
Kilpatrick’s findings were cited. Neil Gilbert was not there; nor were any 
of the other scholars interviewed by the Toledo Blade. 

The litigation that the bill invites gladdens the hearts of gender femi¬ 
nists. If we consider that a boy getting fresh in the backseat of a car may 
be prosecuted both as an attempted rapist and as a gender bigot who has 
violated his date’s civil rights, we can see why the title 3 provision is 
being hailed by radical feminists like Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea 
Dworkin. Dworkin, who was surprised and delighted at the support the 
bill was getting, candidly observed that the senators “don’t understand 
the meaning of the legislation they pass.” 66 

Senator Biden invites us to see the bill’s potential as an instrument of 
moral education on a national scale. “I have become convinced . . . that 
violence against women reflects as much a failure of our nation’s collective 
moral imagination as it does the failure of our nation’s laws and regula¬ 
tions.” 67 Fair enough, but then why not include crimes against the elderly 
or children? What constitutional or moral ground is there for singling out 
female crime victims for special treatment under civil rights laws? Can it 
be that Biden and the others are buying into the gender feminist ontology 
of a society divided against itself along the fault line of gender? 

Equity feminists are as upset as anyone else about the prevalence of 
violence against women, but they are not possessed of the worldview that 

Rape Research 


licenses their overzealous sisters to present inflammatory but inaccurate 
data on male abuse. They want social scientists to tell them the objective 
truth about the prevalence of rape. And because they are not committed 
to the view that men are arrayed against women, they are able to see 
violence against women in the context of what, in our country, appears 
to be a general crisis of violence against persons. By distinguishing be¬ 
tween acts of random violence and acts of violence against women, the 
sponsors of the Violence Against Women Act believe that they are show¬ 
ing sensitivity to feminist concerns. In fact, they may be doing social 
harm by accepting a divisive, gender-specific approach to a problem that 
is not caused by gender bias, misogyny, or “patriarchy”—an approach 
that can obscure real and urgent problems such as lesbian battering or 
male-on-male sexual violence. 68 

According to Stephen Donaldson, president of Stop Prison Rape, more 
than 290,000 male prisoners are assaulted each year. Prison rape, says 
Donaldson in a New York Times opinion piece, “is an entrenched tradi¬ 
tion.” Donaldson, who was himself a victim of prison rape twenty years 
ago when he was incarcerated for antiwar activities, has calculated that 
there may be as many as 45,000 rapes every day in our prison popula¬ 
tion of 1.2 million men. The number of rapes is vastly higher than the 
number of victims because the same men are often attacked repeatedly. 
Many of the rapes are “gang bangs” repeated day after day. To report 
such a rape is a terribly dangerous thing to do, so these rapes may be 
the most underreported of all. No one knows how accurate Donaldson’s 
figures are. They seem incredible to me. But the tragic and neglected 
atrocities he is concerned about are not the kind whose study attracts 
grants from the Ford or Ms. foundations. If he is anywhere near right, 
the incidence of male rape would be as high or higher than that of female 

Equity feminists End it reasonable to approach the problem of violence 
against women by addressing the root causes of the general rise in vio¬ 
lence and the decline in civility. To view rape as a crime of gender bias 
(encouraged by a patriarchy that looks with tolerance on the victimization 
of women) is perversely to miss its true nature. Rape is perpetrated by 
criminals, which is to say, it is perpetrated by people who are wont to 
gratify themselves in criminal ways and who care very little about the 
suffering they inflict on others. 

That most violence is male isn’t news. But very little of it appears to be 
misogynist. This country has more than its share of violent males; statis¬ 
tically we must expect them to gratify themselves at the expense of people 
weaker than themselves, male or female; and so they do. Gender feminist 


Who Stole Feminism? 

ideologues bemuse and alarm the public with inflated statistics. And they 
have made no case for the claim that violence against women is symptom¬ 
atic of a deeply misogynist culture. 

Rape is just one variety of crime against the person, and rape of women 
is just one subvariety. The real challenge we face in our society is how to 
reverse the tide of violence. How to achieve this is a true challenge to our 
moral imagination. It is clear that we must learn more about why so many 
of our male children are so violent. And it is clear we must find ways to 
educate all of our children to regard violence with abhorrence and con¬ 
tempt. We must once again teach decency and considerateness. And this, 
too, must become clear: in any constructive agenda for the future, the 
gender feminist’s divisive social philosophy has no place. 

Chapter 11 

The Backlash Myth 

When regard for truth has been broken down or even 
slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful. 

—St. Augustine 

A couple of years ago, American publishing was enlivened by the 
release of Susan Faludi’s Backlash and Naomi Wolfs The Beauty Myth, two 
impassioned feminist screeds uncovering and denouncing the schemes 
that have prevented women from enjoying the fruits of the women’s 
movement. 1 For our purposes, what these books have in common is more 
interesting and important than what distinguishes them. Both reported a 
widespread conspiracy against women. In both, the putative conspiracy 
has the same goal: to prevent today’s women from making use of their 
hard-won freedoms—to punish them, in other words, for liberating 
themselves. As Ms. Wolf informs us: “After the success of the women’s 
movement’s second wave, the beauty myth was perfected to checkmate 
power at every level in individual women’s lives.” 2 

Conspiracy theories are always popular, but in this case the authors, 
writing primarily for middle-class readers, faced a tricky problem. No 
reasonable person in this day and age could be expected to believe that 
somewhere in America a group of male “elders” has sat down to plot ways 
to perpetuate the subjugation of women. How, then, could they persuade 


Who Stole Feminism? 

anyone of the existence of a widespread effort to control women for the 
good of men? 

The solution that they hit upon made it possible for them to have their 
conspiracy while disavowing it. Faludi and Wolf argued that the conspir¬ 
acy against women is being carried out by malevolent but invisible back¬ 
lash forces or beauty-myth forces that act in purposeful ways. The forces 
in question are subtle, powerful, and insidiously efficient, and women are 
largely unconscious of them. What is more, the primary enforcers of the 
conspiracy are not a group of sequestered males plotting and planning 
their next backlash maneuvers: it is women themselves who “internalize” 
the aims of the backlash, who, unwittingly, do its bidding. In other 
words, the backlash is Us. Or, as Wolf puts it, “many women internalize 
Big Brother’s eye.” 3 

Faludi’s scope is wider than Wolfs; she argues that the media and the 
political system have been co-opted by the backlash, as well: 

The backlash is not a conspiracy, with a council dispatching agents 
from some central control room, nor are the people who serve its 
ends often aware of their role; some even consider themselves femi¬ 
nists. For the most part, its workings are encoded and internalized, 
diffuse and chameleonic . . . generated by a culture machine that is 
always scrounging for a “fresh” angle. Taken as a whole, however, 
these codes and cajolings, these whispers and threats and myths, 
move overwhelmingly in one direction: they try to push women 
back into their “acceptable” roles. 4 

Wolf focuses more narrowly on the “beauty backlash,” which pressures 
women to diet, dress up, make up, and work out in ways that are “de¬ 
stroying women physically and depleting us psychologically”: 5 “The 
beauty backlash against feminism is no conspiracy, but a million separate 
individual reflexes . . . that coalesce into a national mood weighing 
women down; the backlash is all the more oppressive because the source 
of the suffocation is so diffuse as to be almost invisible.” 6 

Having thus skirted a claim of outright conspiracy, Faludi and Wolf 
nevertheless freely use the language of subterfuge to arouse anger and 
bitterness. In their systems, the backlash and the beauty myth become 
malevolent personified forces behind plot after plot against women. 

They incite unscrupulous stooges in the media to write articles that 
make “single and childless women feel like circus freaks.” Cosmetics 
saleswomen are backlash agents, “trained,” Wolf says, “with techniques 
akin to those used by professional cult converters and hypnotists.” She 

The Backlash Myth 


calls Weight Watchers a “cult” and compares its disciplines to those of 
the Unification Church, Scientology, est, and Lifespring. In aerobics 
classes, “robotic” women do the “same bouncing dance . . . practiced by 
the Hare Krishnas for the same effect.” 7 

What the backlash “wants” is clear to both Faludi and Wolf. By the 
seventies, women had been granted a great deal of equality. The primary 
aim of the backlash is to retake lost ground, to put women to rout. 8 The 
subtitle of Faludi’s book is The Undeclared War Against American Women. 
Backlash itself may be regarded as a feminist counterattack in this sup¬ 
posed war. As Patricia Schroeder noted in a review of the book, women 
are not “riled up enough,” and Faludi “may be able to do what political 
activists have tried to do for years.” 9 Indeed, she and Wolf together 
succeeded in moving countless women to anger and dismay. 

Where did Faludi and Wolf get the idea that masses of seemingly free 
women were being mysteriously manipulated from within? A look at their 
source of inspiration illustrates the workings of a law of intellectual fash¬ 
ion that the journalist Paul Berman calls “Parisian determinism”—that is, 
whatever is the rage in Paris will be fashionable in America fifteen years 
later. 10 

Michel Foucault, a professor of philosophy at the distinguished College 
de France and an irreverent social thinker who felt deeply alienated from 
the society in which he lived, introduced his theory of interior disciplines 
in 1975. His book Discipline and Punish, with its novel explanation of how 
large groups of people could be controlled without the need of exterior 
controllers, took intellectual Paris by storm. Foucault had little love for 
the modem democratic state. Like Marx, he was interested in the forces 
that keep citizens of democracies law-abiding and obedient. 

According to Foucault, the individual subjects of contemporary de¬ 
mocracies are not free at all. Instead, democratic societies turn out to be 
even more rigidly authoritarian than the tyrannies they replaced. Modem 
citizens find themselves subject to the rules (he calls them “disciplines”) 
of modem bureaucratic institutions: schools, factories, hospitals, the mil¬ 
itary, the prisons. In premodem societies, where power was overtly au¬ 
thoritarian, enforcement was inconsistent, haphazard, and inefficient: the 
king’s minions could not be everywhere all the time. In contemporary 
societies, control is pervasive and unceasing: the modem citizen, having 
internalized the disciplines of the institutions, polices himself. This results 
in a “disciplinary society” of “docile” subjects who keep themselves in 
line with what is expected. According to the philosopher Richard Rorty, 
Foucault believed he was exposing “a vast organization of repression and 
injustice.” 11 He regarded the multitude of self-disciplined individuals as 


Who Stole Feminism? 

constituting a “microfascism” that is even more efficiently constraining 
than the macrofascism of totalitarian states. 

How seriously can one take Foucault’s theory? Not very, says Princeton 
political philosopher Michael Walzer, who characterizes Foucault’s poli¬ 
tics as “infantile leftism.” 12 Foucault was aware that he was equating 
modem democracies with repressively brutal systems like the Soviet 
prison camps in the Gulag. In a 1977 interview, he showed some concern 
about how his ideas might be interpreted: “I am indeed worried by a 
certain use . . . which consists in saying, ‘Everyone has their own Gulag, 
the Gulag is here at our door, in our cities, our hospitals, our prisons, it’s 
here in our heads.’ ” 13 But, as Walzer points out, so long as Foucault 
rejected the possibility of individual freedom, which is the moral basis for 
liberal democracy, it was unclear how he could sustain the distinction 
between the real Gulag and the one inside the heads of bourgeois citizens. 

Foucault’s theory has few adherents among social philosophers, but it 
is nonetheless highly popular among gender feminist theorists, who find 
his critique of liberal democracy useful for their purposes. Foucault has 
given them an all-purpose weapon to be used against traditional-minded 

Equity feminists believe that American women have made great prog¬ 
ress and that our system of government allows them to expect more. They 
do not believe that women are “socially subordinate.” By contrast, the 
gender feminists believe that modem women are still in thrall to patriar¬ 
chy, and Foucault helps them to make their case. When equity feminists 
point to the gains made by women in recent decades, gender feminists 
consider them naive. Applying Foucault, they insist that male power 
remains all-pervasive, only now it has become “interiorized” and therefore 
even more efficient; force is no longer necessary. In effect, they have 
adopted Foucault’s “discourses” to argue that “femininity” itself is really a 
discipline that continues to degrade and oppress women, even those in 
the so-called free democracies. As Sandra Lee Bartky puts it: 

No one is marched off for electrolysis at the end of a rifle. . . . 
Nevertheless . . . the disciplinary practices of femininity . . . must be 
understood as aspects of a far larger discipline, an oppressive and 
inegalitarian system of sexual subordination. This system aims at 
turning women into the docile and compliant companions of men 
just as surely as the army aims to turn its raw recruits into soldiers. 14 

For Bartky, contemporary American women live in a kind of sexual 
prison, subject to disciplines that ordain much of their daily lives: 

The Backlash Myth 


The woman who checks her make-up half a dozen times a day to 
see if her foundation has caked or her mascara run, who worries 
that the wind or rain may spoil her hairdo, who looks frequently to 
see if her stockings have bagged at the ankle, or who, feeling fat, 
monitors everything she eats, has become, just as surely as the 
inmate [under constant surveillance], a self-policing subject, a self 
committed to a relentless self-surveillance. This self-surveillance is a 
form of obedience to patriarchy [my emphasis]. 15 

Catharine MacKinnon presents her own, sexier version of how contem¬ 
porary women have “interiorized” a self-destructive, self-sustaining, de¬ 
spairing, craven identity that serves men very well and continues to 
humiliate women: 

Sexual desire in women, at least in this culture, is socially con¬ 
structed as that by which we come to want our own self-annihila¬ 
tion; that is, our subordination is eroticized;... we get off on it, to 
a degree. This is our stake in this system that is not in our interest, 
our stake in this system that is killing us. I’m saying that femininity 
as we know it is how we come to want male dominance, which 
most emphatically is not in our interest. 16 

MacKinnon rejects “femininity as we know it” because it has come to 
mean accepting and even desiring male domination. Her militant, gyno- 
centric feminism would teach women to see how deeply, craftily, and 
deceptively the male culture has socialized them to compliance: “Male 
dominance is perhaps the most pervasive and tenacious system of power 
in history. ... Its force is exercised as consent, its authority as participa¬ 
tion.” 17 

It would be a mistake to think that the idea of a tenacious internalized 
power that is keeping women subjugated is on the fringe of the New 
Feminism and not at its center. To most feminist leaders, the backlash is 
very real. It was the theme of a 1992 conference I attended at Radcliffe 
College called “In the Eye of the Storm: Feminist Research and Action in 
the 90s.” One of the purposes of the conference was to “explore the 
backlash—against the women’s movement, against women’s research, 
women’s studies . . . and against public policy equity agendas.” The con¬ 
ference was sponsored by the prestigious National Council for Research 
on Women—an umbrella organization that represents more than seventy 
women’s groups, including the Wellesley College Center for Research on 
Women and the American Association of University Women. Expenses 


Who Stole Feminism? 

were covered by the Ford Foundation. Though the conference featured 
extremists like Charlotte Bunch (who referred to Dan Quayle as a Klans- 
man), it also had Nannerl Keohane, now president of Duke University, 
who seemed not to be disturbed by all the backlash rhetoric. 

The assumption that women must defend themselves against an enemy 
who is waging an undeclared war against them has by now achieved the 
status of conventional feminist wisdom. In large part, this has happened 
because seemingly reasonable and highly placed feminists like Ms. Keo¬ 
hane have not seen fit to challenge it. Whether they have been silent 
because they agree or because they have found it politic to refrain from 
criticism, I do not know. 

Foucault promulgated his doctrine of self-surveillance in the midsev¬ 
enties. By the mideighties, it had turned up in the books of feminist 
theorists; by the nineties, it had become thematic in feminist best-sellers. 
Wolf mentions Foucault in her bibliography. Faludi offers him no ac¬ 
knowledgment, but her characterization of the backlash bespeaks his 

The lack of orchestration, the absence of a single string-puller, only 
makes it harder to see—and perhaps more effective. A backlash 
against women’s rights succeeds to the degree that it appears not to 
be political, that it appears not to be a struggle at all. It is most 
powerful when it goes private, when it lodges inside a woman’s 
mind and turns her vision inward, until she imagines the pressure 
is all in her head, until she begins to enforce the backlash too—on 
herself. 18 

Wolf and Faludi tend to portray the “disciplined” and docile women 
in the grip of the backlash as Stepford wives—helpless, possessed, and 
robotic. Wolf sometimes speaks of women as victims of “mass hypnosis.” 
“This is not a conspiracy theory,” she reminds us. “It doesn’t have to 
be.” 19 Faludi explains how the backlash managed to “infiltrate the 
thoughts of women, broadcasting on these private channels its sound¬ 
waves of shame and reproach.” 20 

In addition to Foucauldian theory, Faludi and Wolf have appropriated 
masses of statistics and studies that “consistently show” the workings of 
the backlash and the beauty myth and their effects on American women. 
But although their books are massively footnoted, reliable statistical evi¬ 
dence for the backlash hypothesis is in terribly short supply. According 

The Backlash Myth 


to Wolf, “Recent research consistently shows that inside the majority of 
the West’s controlled, attractive, successful working women, there is a 
secret ‘underlife’ poisoning our freedom; infused with notions of beauty, 
it is a dark vein of self-hatred, physical obsessions, terror of aging, and 
dread of lost control.” 21 The research she cites was done in 1983 at Old 
Dominion University. She claims that the researchers found that attractive 
women “compare themselves only to models, not to other women,” and 
feel unattractive. This kind of claim is central to Wolfs contention that 
images of beautiful, willowy women in fashion magazines demoralize 
real women. In fact, the study she cited suggested the opposite. The 
Old Dominion researchers compared the self-reports of three groups of 
college-age women: one group evaluated themselves after looking at pho¬ 
tos of fashion models, another group after looking at pictures of unattrac¬ 
tive peers, and a third group after looking at pictures of very attractive 
peers. The researchers were careful not to exaggerate the significance of 
this small experiment, but they (tentatively) concluded that although 
reactions to attractive peers negatively influenced women’s self-evaluation, 
exposure to the models had no such effect: 

Perhaps in the eyes of most of our subjects, peer beauty qualified as 
a more appropriate standard for social comparison than professional 
beauty. . . . Viewed in a practical sense, our results further suggest 
that thumbing through popular magazines filled with beautiful 
models may have little immediate effect on the self-images of most 
women. 22 

I called the principal author of the study, Thomas Cash, a psychologist 
at Old Dominion, and asked him what he thought about Ms. Wolfs use 
of his research. “It had nothing to do with what we found. It made no 
sense. What I reported was just the opposite of what Wolf claimed. . . . 
She grabbed it, ran with it, and got it backward.” 23 We have already 
discussed her sensational disclosure that the beauty backlash is wreaking 
havoc with young women by leading them into a lethal epidemic of 
anorexia with annual fatalities of 150,000. The actual fatalities appear to 
be considerably fewer than 100 per year. 

Much of the support Wolf brings for her beauty-myth theory consists 
of merely labeling an activity insidious rather than showing it to be so— 
exercising, dieting, and buying Lancome products at the cosmetics 
counter in Bloomingdale’s all come under attack. Characterizing Weight 
Watchers as a cult does not constitute evidence that it is one. In her zeal 


Who Stole Feminism? 

to construe every effort of American women to lose weight as a symptom 
of a male-induced anxiety, she overlooks the fact that many people— 
men as well as women—suffer from obesity and are threatened by dis¬ 
eases that do not affect people who are fit. Stressing the importance of 
diet and fitness can hardly be considered as an insidious attempt by the 
male establishment to disempower women. The desire to achieve greater 
fitness is perhaps the main motive inspiring both men and women to 
exercise and to monitor their diets. 

Wolf recycled results from every alarmist-advocacy study she could get 
her hands on. Mary Koss’s results on date rape are duly reported: “One 
in four women respondents had an experience that met the American 
legal definition of rape or attempted rape.” 24 She does not mention that 
Koss’s definition of rape was controversial. She does not tell us that almost 
half the women Koss classified as victims dated their “rapists” again. Wolf 
does sometimes point to real problems, such as the overwhelming fear of 
being “unfeminine,” the excessive rate of cosmetic surgery, and the high 
incidence of domestic violence. But she errs in systematically ascribing 
them to the same misogynist cause. Good social theorists are painfully 
aware of the complexity of the phenomena they seek to explain, and 
honest researchers tend to be suspicious of single-factor explanations, no 
matter how beguiling. 

Faludi’s approach is that of the muckraking reporter bent on saving 
women by exposing the lies, half-truths, and deceits that the male- 
oriented media have created to demoralize women and keep them out of 
the workplace. Her readers might naturally assume that she herself has 
taken care to be truthful. However, not a few astonished reviewers dis¬ 
covered that Backlash relies for its impact on many untruths—some far 
more serious than any it exposes. In her New York Times review, the 
journalist and feminist Ellen Goodman gently chastised Faludi for over¬ 
looking evidence that did not fit her puzzle. But Goodman’s tone was 
so enthusiastic—she praised the book for its “sharp style” and thorough¬ 
ness—that few heeded her criticisms. 25 Within weeks Backlash jumped to 
the top of the best-seller lists, becoming the hottest feminist book in 
decades. Faludi was in demand—on the lecture circuit, on talk shows, 
in book stores, and in print. The more serious criticism came a few 
months later. 

In a letter to the New York Times Book Review, Barbara Lovenheim, 
author of Beating the Marriage Odds, reported that she had looked into 
some of Faludi’s major claims and found them to be erroneous. Her letter 
presented some egregious examples and concluded that Faludi “skews 
data, misquotes primary sources, and makes serious errors of omission.” 26 

The Backlash Myth 


Although Lovenheim is a respected and responsible journalist, the review 
editors of the Times have a policy of fact-checking controversial material, 
and they asked Lovenheim to provide detailed proof that her criticisms of 
Faludi were well-grounded. She complied, and the Times devoted half a 
page to the publication of Lovenheim’s letter. Here is a portion of Loven- 
heim’s argument and findings. 

Faludi had written: “Women under thirty-five now give birth to chil¬ 
dren with Down syndrome at a higher rate than women over thirty- 
five.” 27 That claim fits well with Faludi’s central thesis that the backlash 
is particularly aimed at professionally successful single women. By prop¬ 
agating false reports that women over thirty-five are at a higher risk of 
bearing a child with birth defects, the backlash seeks to discourage 
women and to harm their careers by causing them to worry about their 
decision to delay childbirth. 

But, says Ms. Lovenheim, the deplorable truth is that age sharply in¬ 
creases a woman’s chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. The 
chances are one in 1,000 under age twenty-five, one in 400 at thirty-five, 
one in 100 at forty, and one in 35 at forty-four. 28 Lovenheim points out 
that, in making her false claim, Faludi misrepresents her own source, 
Working Woman (August 1990). For Working Woman had warned its 
readers that a variety of abnormalities are associated with maternal age, 
among them that older women “are more likely to conceive fetuses with 
chromosomal defects such as Down syndrome.” 29 

One of Faludi’s more sensational claims—it opens her book—is that 
there is a concerted effort under way to demoralize successful women by 
spooking them about a man shortage. Faludi denies that there is a short¬ 
age, but Lovenheim shows that the facts do not support her. Though 
there is no man shortage for women in their twenties and early thirties, 
things change by the time women reach their midthirties. The census data 
indicate that between the ages of thirty-five and forty-four, there are 84 
single men for every 100 women. 30 There are as many as one million 
more single women than single men between ages thirty-five and fifty- 
four. Lovenheim points out that Faludi made it look otherwise by leaving 
out all divorced and widowed singles. 

Faludi responded to Lovenheim’s letter two weeks later. She said she 
“welcomed” attempts to correct “minor inaccuracies.” But she could not 
“help wondering at the possible motives of the letter writer, who is the 
author of a book called Beating the Marriage Odds.’’ She made an attempt 
to explain her bizarre claim that older women have a lower incidence of 
Down’s births. The claim was poorly worded, she conceded: she really 
meant to say that since women over thirty-five tend to be screened for 


Who Stole Feminism? 

birth defects, many abort their defective fetuses, lowering their rate of live 
births to babies with this abnormality. She neglected to add that this 
concession undercuts her larger argument. 

After Lovenheim’s letter was published, reviewers in several journals 
began to turn up other serious errors in Faludi’s arguments. She had 
cited, for example, a 1986 article in Fortune magazine reporting that many 
successful women were finding demanding careers unsatisfying and were 
“bailing out” to accommodate marriage and children. According to Fa- 
ludi, “The Fortune story left an especially deep and troubled impression 
on young women aspiring to business and management careers. . . . The 
year after Fortune launched the ‘bailing out’ trend, the proportion of 
women applying to business schools suddenly began to shrink—for the 
first time in a decade.” 

In a review, Gretchen Morgenson of Forbes magazine called this thesis 
“interesting but wrong.” She wrote, “There was no shrinkage following 
the Fortune story. According to the American Assembly of Collegiate 
Schools of Business, which reports on business school graduates, the 
proportion of women graduates increased every year from 1967 through 
1989, the most recent figures available.” 31 

Morgenson also deflated Faludi’s claim that in the eighties, “women 
were pouring into many low-paid female work ghettos.” United States 
Bureau of Labor statistics, she pointed out, show that “the percentage of 
women executives, administrators, and managers among all managers in 
the American work force has risen from 32.4 percent in 1983 to 41 
percent in 1991.” Morgenson judged Faludi’s book “a labyrinth of non¬ 
sense followed by eighty pages of footnotes.” 32 

Time magazine, which was preparing an article on Faludi, found other 
glaring inconsistencies, primarily in Faludi’s economic reckonings, which 
apparently led them to modify the ebullient tone of their story with the 
admonition that Faludi “rightly slams journalists who distort data in order 
to promote what they view as a larger truth; but in a number of instances, 
she can be accused of the same tactics.” 33 Time reporter Nancy Gibbs 
looked into some of Faludi’s complaints about the way the media have 
dealt with the economic effects of divorce on women: 

Faludi demonstrates that the studies on the impact of divorce greatly 
exaggerate the fall in the average woman’s living standard in the year 
after she leaves her husband. But she adds that five years after 
divorce, most women’s standard of living has actually improved. 
She relegates to a footnote the fact that this is because most have 
remarried. 34 

The Backlash Myth 


Faludi is especially critical of anyone in the media who finds fault with 
current day-care arrangements. She treats a 1984 Newsweek story as a 
diatribe against day care that glorifies women who give up careers to raise 
their kids. But Cathy Young, the reviewer from Reason magazine, points 
out that Faludi carefully refrained from mentioning that the author of the 
article called for quality day care and considered it to be “a basic family 
need.” 35 To make her general case for a media backlash, Faludi assidu¬ 
ously collected media stories that question the joys of single life or the 
wisdom of a mother with small children choosing to work. Young ob¬ 
served that Faludi nowhere mentions the numerous articles that encourage 
women in these choices, nor those that celebrate “the new fatherhood, 
the benefits for girls of having working mothers, women in business and 
nontraditional jobs.” Throughout her long book, Faludi gives the clear 
impression that the slant of coverage in major newspapers and magazines 
is distinctly antifeminist. According to Ms. Young, the opposite is true. 

In a review for Working Woman magazine, Carol Pogash finds that 
Faludi “misconstrues statistics to suit her view that American women are 
no longer very anxious to wed.” 36 Faludi interprets a 1990 Virginia Slims 
poll as finding that women placed the quest for a husband way at the 
bottom of their list of concerns. “Perhaps,” says Ms. Pogash, “that’s be¬ 
cause 62 percent of the women in the sample were already married, a fact 
[Faludi] doesn’t mention.” 37 Ms. Pogash notes that Faludi also misstated 
the results of another Virginia Slims poll as showing that “70 percent of 
women believed they could have a ‘happy and complete life’ without a 
wedding ring.” In fact the question was, “Do you think it is possible for a 
woman to have a complete and happy life if she is single?”—not whether 
the respondent herself could be happy as a single woman. 

Faludi talks about “the wages of the backlash,” and her most insistent 
theme is that women are being severely punished economically for the 
social and civic progress they had made prior to the eighties. Flow a 
feminist reacts to data about gender gaps in salaries and economic oppor¬ 
tunities is an excellent indication of the kind of feminist she is. In general, 
the equity feminist points with pride to the many gains women have 
made toward achieving parity in the workplace. By contrast, the gender 
feminist makes it a point to disparage these gains and to speak of back¬ 
lash. It disturbs her that the public may be lulled into thinking that 
women are doing well and that men are allowing it. The gender feminist 
insists that any so-called progress is illusory. 

I felt the force of this insistence two years ago when my stepson, 
Tamler, was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania. Fie had written a 
term paper on Jane Eyre in which he made the “insensitive” observation 


Who Stole Feminism? 

that vocational opportunities for women are wider today than they were 
for Jane Eyre. “No!” wrote his instructor in the margin. “Even today 
women only make 59 percent of what men make!” (I was later to see this 
professor on one of the panels at the Heilbrun conference.) The next 
semester, in another course and for another English professor, Tamler 
“erred” again by saying of one female character that she had a more 
satisfying job than her husband did. Again, his teacher expressed her 
irritation in the margin: “How would you rationalize women earning 49 
percent of men’s salaries in all fields?” As monitored by Pennsylvania’s 
English department, the condition of women seemed to have grown ap¬ 
preciably worse in less than a year! 

We have all seen these angry figures. But there is not much truth in 
them. By most measures, the eighties were a time of rather spectacular 
gains by American women—in education, in wages, and in such tradi¬ 
tionally male professions as business, law, and medicine. The gender 
feminist will have none of this. According to Susan Faludi, the eighties 
were the backlash decade, in which men successfully retracted many of 
the gains wrested from them in preceding decades. This view, inconven¬ 
iently, does not square with the facts. 

Since any criticism of Faludi’s claim of a wages backlash is apt to be 
construed as just more backlashing, one must be grateful to the editors of 
the New York Times business section for braving the wrath of feminist 
ideologues by presenting an objective account of the economic picture as 
it affects women. Surveying several reports by women economists on 
women’s gains in the 1980s, New York Times business writer Sylvia Nasar 
rejected Faludi’s thesis. She pointed to masses of empirical data showing 
that “Far from losing ground, women gained more in the 1980s than in 
the entire postwar era before that. And almost as much as between 1890 
and 1980.” 38 

Today more than ever, economic position is a function of education. 
In 1970, 41 percent of college students were women; in 1979, 50 percent 
were women; and in 1992, 55 percent were women. In 1970, 5 percent 
of law degrees were granted to women. In 1989, the figure was 41 per¬ 
cent; by 1991 it was 43 percent, and it has since gone up. In 1970, 
women earned 8 percent of medical degrees. This rose to 33 percent in 
1989; by 1991 it was 36 percent. The giant strides in education are 
reflected in accelerated progress in the professions and business. Diane 
Ravitch, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, reports that women have 
made great advancements toward full equality in every professional field, 
and “in some, such as pharmacy and veterinary medicine, women have 

The Backlash Myth 


become the majority in what was previously a male-dominated profes¬ 
sion.” 39 

The New York Times article summarized the research as follows: 

A fresh body of research—mostly by a new generation of female 
economists who’ve mined a mountain of unexplored data—shows 
compellingly that women were big economic winners in the 1980s 
expansion and that their gains are likely to keep coming in the 
1990s regardless of who is in the White House. . . . Conventional 
wisdom—enshrined in the best-selling book Backlash: The Unde¬ 
clared War Against American Women, among other places—has it 
that women made no progress in the past decade. In fact, women 
were stuck earning around 60 cents to the men’s dollar from 1960 
through 1980, but started catching up fast as the economy expanded 
during the 1980s. 40 

The Times reports that the proportion women earn of each dollar of 
men’s wages rose to a record 72 cents by 1990. But the Times points out 
that even this figure is misleadingly pessimistic, because it includes older 
women who are only marginally in the work force, such as “the mother 
who graduated from high school, left the work force at twenty and re¬ 
turned to a minimum wage at a local store.” Younger women, says the 
Times, “now earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men of the same 
age, up from 69 cents in 1980.” 

It might be supposed that it was not so much that women did well but 
that men did poorly in the recent recession. However, Baruch College 
economics professor June O’Neill, director of the Center for Study of 
Business and Government, showed that even in areas where men did 
well, women did better: “At the upper end, where men did very well, 
women went through the roof.” According to Francine Blau, a University 
of Illinois economist cited in the Times story, the eighties were years in 
which “everything started to come together for women.” 

None of these facts has made the slightest impression on the backlash 
mongerers. For years, feminist activists have been wearing buttons claim¬ 
ing women earn “59 cents to a man’s dollar.” Some journalists have 
questioned this figure: Faludi calls them “spokesmen” for the backlash. 41 
According to Faludi, “By 1988, women with a college diploma could still 
wear the famous 59-cent buttons. They were still making 59 cents to their 
male counterpart’s dollar. In fact, the pay gap for them was now a bit 
worse than five years earlier.” 42 


Who Stole Feminism? 

The sources Faludi cites do not sustain her figure. The actual figure for 
1988 is 68 cents, both for all women and for women with a college 
diploma. This is substantially higher, not lower, than it was five years 
earlier. The most recent figures, for 1992, are considerably higher yet, the 
highest they have ever been: 71 cents for all women and 73 cents for 
women with a college diploma. 43 

The figure of 59 cents may be a useful rallying cry for gender feminist 
activists, but like many such slogans it is highly misleading and now 
egregiously out of date. The following diagram shows the dramatic rise of 
the female-to-male, year-round, full-time earnings ratio, from about 59 
cents throughout the 1970s to 71 cents in 1992. 44 

Female-to-Male YRFT Earnings Ratio 

Evidently the 59 cent figure is chosen for its propaganda value rather 
than for true insights into any remaining discrimination. 

What of the remaining gap between male and female earnings? For the 
gender feminists, the answer is simple: the wage gap is the result of 
discrimination against women. But in fact, serious economics scholars 
who are trained to interpret these data (including many eminent female 
economists) point out that most of the differences in earnings reflect such 
prosaic matters as shorter work weeks and lesser workplace experience. 
For example, the average work week for full-time, year-round females is 

The Backlash Myth 


shorter than for males. When economists compare men’s and women’s 
hourly earnings instead of their yearly earnings, the wage gap narrows 
even more. 45 

Economists differ on exactly how much, if any, of the remaining gap is 
discrimination. Most economists agree that much of it simply represents 
the fact that, on average, women have accrued less workplace experience 
than men of the same age. One recent scholarly estimate shows that as of 
1987, females who were currently working full-time and year-round had, 
on average, one-quarter fewer years of work experience than comparable 
males. 46 Moreover, a year of average female work experience generally 
represents fewer hours than a year of average male work experience, 
because of women’s shorter average work week. 

The experience gap is particularly important in explaining the earnings 
gap between older women and men, which is considerably wider than 
that for younger workers (67 cents for ages fifty-five through sixty-four 
vs. 82 cents for ages twenty-five through thirty-four). For older women, 
the experience gap is wider than one-quarter, and adds up over time to a 
sizable gap in years of experience and an even wider gap in hours of 

These data are important in understanding the oft-cited claim of a 
“glass ceiling” for women. Promotion in high-powered professional jobs 
often goes to those who have put in long hours in evenings and on 
weekends. Husbands may be more likely to do so than wives, for a variety 
of reasons, including unequal division of responsibilities at home, in 
which case the source of the difficulty is at home, not in the market¬ 
place. 47 

Obviously, the experience gap also reflects the fact that many women 
choose to move into and out of the work force during childbearing and 
child-rearing years. This reduces the amount of experience they acquire 
in the workplace and naturally results in lower earnings, quite apart from 
any possible discrimination. Some evidence of this is provided by data on 
childless workers, for whom the experience gap should be much nar¬ 
rower, resulting in a narrower earnings gap. This, in fact, is the case: the 
female-to-male ratio of hourly earnings for childless white workers aged 
twenty to forty-four was 86-91 percent, as of 1987. 48 

The bottom line is that although economists still differ on how much 
discrimination remains, virtually all of them would agree that the 59 cent 
figure is highly misleading. For example, June O’Neill finds that “differ¬ 
ences in earnings attributable solely to gender are likely to be much 
smaller than is commonly believed, probably less than 10 percent.” 49 
This contrasts rather starkly with the 41 percent figure claimed by Faludi. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

This is not to say that there is no room for improvement. An obvious 
case in point is the modem university’s failure to adjust its tenure system 
to the growing number of females entering academic careers. Since all 
new professors are required to “publish or perish” in the first six years of 
their career, the tenure clock ticks away at exactly the same rate as young 
women’s biological clocks. 50 Adjustments are called for since this state of 
affairs seriously affects equality of opportunity. It is important to note, 
however, that the slow adjustment of the universities to changed circum¬ 
stances is at least in part because they are public or nonprofit institutions 
that are somewhat insulated from the market. The private sector, argu¬ 
ably, has been more creative with respect to flextime, on-site day care, 
and home office options, and is likely to evolve further, out of economic 
imperative, rather than through the kind of government intrusion favored 
by many of the gender warriors. 51 

The generally sober economics profession has a few of its own gender 
feminists, too. One of its more prominent exponents is American Univer¬ 
sity’s professor of economics Barbara Bergmann, who claims “widespread, 
severe, ongoing discrimination by employers and fellow workers.” 52 Pro¬ 
fessor Bergmann recently surprised some of her fellow feminist (and non¬ 
feminist) economists by opposing a long-standing proposal to include the 
value of nonmarket activity, such as housework and child care, in the 
official gross domestic product figures. Her reason was revealing: “Part of 
the motive [of the proposal] is to lend some dignity to the position of 
housewives. What I think feminism is about is getting women off of the 
housewife track.” 53 Professor Bergmann has proposed that all candidates 
for office in the American Economic Association be questioned regarding 
“their memberships in feminist and antifeminist organizations.” 54 She did 
not specify which “antifeminist” memberships she was targeting, but 
the tone of her proposal is particularly disturbing because she had re¬ 
cently served as president of the American Association of University Pro¬ 

As Ms. Nasar reminds us, women have not yet achieved parity. Never¬ 
theless, the glass is at least three-quarters full and getting fuller. Someone 
ought to inform the University of Pennsylvania English department about 
this—and, more crucially, the many Backlash readers who may have been 
discouraged by misleading statistics. 

According to Faludi and Wolf, there are three kinds of women to 
consider. The majority are naifs who are in one way or another pawns of 
the patriarchy that shapes their minds and desires. The sophisticated 

The Backlash Myth 


minority of aware women can be divided into two classes: those who have 
not sold out to the patriarchy and those who have. Not surprisingly, 
Faludi places herself in the first group, while those who disagree with 
them are consigned to the second. Faludi includes in their number such 
dedicated feminists as Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Sylvia Hewlett, 
Erica Jong, and Susan Brownmiller. 

Friedan, who has criticized radical feminists for “wallowing” in victim- 
hood and who even dared to suggest that feminists were wrong to slight 
Girl Scout leaders and Junior League members, is accused of using New 
Right rhetoric and of being part and parcel of its “profamily” agenda. But 
the question is not why Betty Friedan may be wrong but why she is, in 
Faludi’s words, “stomping on a movement that she did so much to create 
and lead.” Faludi’s “explanation” is that Friedan is having “the tan¬ 
trums of a fallen leader who is clearly distressed and angry that she 
wasn’t allowed to be the Alpha wolf as long as she would have liked.” 55 
According to Faludi, Friedan’s pettiness rendered her susceptible to 

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is a former Barnard professor of economics who is 
known for her work on family-policy issues. She had worked hard in the 
seventies canvassing for the Equal Rights Amendment. Her shock and 
dismay at its defeat moved her to ask, in her book A Lesser Life: The Myth 
of Women’s Liberation in America, “Why did women fail to give the ERA 
the support necessary for victory?” 

The conclusions she reached put her high on Faludi’s backlash black¬ 
list. “In a profound way,” Hewlett writes, “feminists have failed to connect 
with the needs and aspirations of ordinary American women.” 56 Accord¬ 
ing to Hewlett, the ERA did not pass because of a widespread defection 
of women who no longer felt well represented by the feminist leaders 
who advocated its passage. “It is sobering to realize that the ERA was 
defeated not by Barry Goldwater, Jerry Falwell, or any combination of 
male chauvinist pigs, but by women who were alienated from a feminist 
movement the values of which seemed elitist and disconnected from the 
lives of ordinary people.” 57 

Faludi is, of course, committed to the view that women as well as men 
are participating in and abetting the backlash. So Hewlett’s contentions 
are in that sense not unwelcome to Faludi: both agree that women no less 
than men are responsible for the defeat of the ERA. But whereas Hewlett 
ascribes women’s opposition to the ERA to their alienation from the 
women’s movement due to its lack of sympathy for “ordinary women,” 
Faludi insists on seeing it as a direct effect of the backlash that isolated 
and discredited the leaders of the women’s movement. For Faludi, there 


Who Stole Feminism? 

is no way to explain the phenomenon but to pity the masses of women 
who did not support the ERA as craven, frightened victims of the back¬ 
lash. And since Hewlett cannot conceivably be so cavalierly dismissed, 
she must be an agent of the backlash itself. Faludi avails herself of a 
classic technique for dealing with sophisticated opponents: accuse them 
of having sold out to the enemy. She slyly informs the reader that Hewlett 
lives at a “fashionable Manhattan address” and is a member of an estab¬ 
lishment think tank. She mentions that publishers vied for Hewlett’s book 
when they found it was critical of feminism and insinuates that she makes 
lots of money as an authority on family policy, citing a black-tie dinner 
Hewlett sponsored on Capitol Hill. In short, she implies, Hewlett is an 
opportunist with a substantial pecuniary interest in holding and promot¬ 
ing the opinions she expresses. 38 

Faludi deals with Germaine Greer, Susan Brownmiller, and Erica Jong 
in much the same way. Just as Friedan is described as having a “tantrum,” 
Greer and Brownmiller are said to be “revisionists” and “recanters.” 59 As 
for Ms. Jong, Faludi informs us that her support for feminism “had ac¬ 
tually always been rather equivocal.” 60 But the plain truth is that Faludi 
has painted herself into a position that allows no room for criticism. 

Wolf does not have Faludi’s brassy temperament. She prefers to say 
that her critics are misguided and to forgive them, for they know not 
what they do. After seeing Wolf interviewed on “20/20,” Barbara Walters 
called her theory of the beauty myth “a crock.” Wolf took this as addi¬ 
tional evidence of how deeply the myth is embedded in the minds of 
seemingly free women: even Ms. Walters has been bodysnatched. Wolf 
admits she finds it troubling when women deny their own oppression. 
But, she explains, “Those initial impulses of denial are understandable: 
People most need the mechanism of denial when an intolerable situation 
has been pointed out to them.” 61 

However, the fact that most women reject the divisive radical feminism 
she has been promoting appears finally to have impressed Ms. Wolf, 
whose new book. Fire with Fire, 62 trumpets a shift from what she calls 
“victim feminism” to a new “power feminism.” Wolfs power feminism 
turns out to be a version of the classically liberal mainstream feminism 
with the addition of some contemporary “feel good” themes. To the 
dismay of many who admired the heated claims of her first book, Wolf 
now seems to regard American women as individuals who must be en¬ 
couraged to take charge of their lives rather than whine about mass 
hypnosis and male conspiracies. The victim feminism whose able spokes¬ 
person she had hitherto been she now regards as “obsolete”: “It no longer 
matches up with what women see happening in their lives. And, if fern- 

The Backlash Myth 


inism, locked for years in the siege mentality that once was necessary, 
fails to see this change, it may fail to embrace this new era’s opportuni¬ 
ties.” 63 

The new Wolf calls for a feminism that “is tolerant about other wom¬ 
en’s choices about equality and appearance,” a feminism that “does not 
attack men on the basis of gender,” one that “knows that making social 
change does not contradict the principle that girls just want to have 
fun.” 64 

When I read this, I felt like calling Ms. Wolf to tell her, “All is for¬ 
given!” But I probably would have been unable to refrain from adding, 
“Well, almost all: was the siege mentality to which you so cleverly .con¬ 
tributed in The Beauty Myth really necessary?” In the end I’m inclined to 
chalk up her earlier extremism to the effective indoctrination she got in 
women’s studies at Yale. 

Her former allies are not so forgiving. After all, it was only just yester¬ 
day that they had been cheering Wolfs descriptions of how women are 
in mass hypnosis and in thrall to the men who exploit them. On the 
academic feminist e-mail network, one now sees Wolf reviled and at¬ 
tacked. A typical reaction comes from e-mailer Suzanna Walters, a soci¬ 
ology professor at Georgetown University: “Wolfs book is trash and 
backlash and everything nasty (including homophobic and racist).” 65 

Get used to this, Ms. Wolf. You’ll soon be finding out how it feels to 
be called antifeminist simply because you refuse to regard men as the 
enemy and women as their hapless victims. You speak of “the principle 
that girls just want to have fun.” That will doubly offend your erstwhile 
sisters in arms. First, they prefer all female Americans above the age of 
fourteen to be referred to as “women.” Second, they find the idea that 
women want to have fun, frivolous and retrograde. You’ll be monitored 
for more such breaches of doctrine. And, in particular, Susan Faludi will 
now classify you as just another backlasher. 

Barbara Walters had found Naomi Wolfs beauty-myth thesis about the 
secret misery of professional women offensive and absurd. Kathleen Gilles 
Seidel, a best-selling writer and avid reader of romance novels, was of¬ 
fended by American University feminist scholar Kay Mussell’s analysis of 
women who enjoy reading romance novels. Ms. Mussell describes ro¬ 
mance readers as unhappy women seeking to escape from their own 
“powerlessness, from meaninglessness, and from lack of self-esteem and 
identity.” 66 Seidel finds that arrogantly wrong: 

I am a romance reader, and I strongly object to anyone describing 
my life in those terms. I have my moments of dissatisfaction, of 


Who Stole Feminism? 

course, but I have power and meaning, I do not lack self-esteem or 
identity. Granted not all women have living room window treat¬ 
ments that they like as much as I like mine, or a mother such as 
mine or work that they feel about as I feel about mine, but I do 
think it is possible for women to find contentment, fulfillment, 
peace, and happiness within our culture, and I believe that a great 
many of them are doing a good job of it. 67 

It isn’t hard to imagine how the feminist Foucauldians would go about 
explaining Ms. Seidel’s enthusiasm for her window treatments—or her 
sanguine view about the lives of other American women. For them it is a 
tenet of faith that the life of women under patriarchy is one of quiet 
desperation. But when asked, the majority of women seem to agree with 
Ms. Seidel. 

Occasionally a study designed to document the woes of American 
women inadvertently turns up data that suggest most American women 
are enjoying life. An interesting case in point is the already-mentioned 
study on women’s ills commissioned by the Commonwealth Fund in 
1992 and carried out by Louis Harris and Associates. 

The Harris pollsters asked a series of questions of a random sample of 
2,500 women and 1,000 men about their physical and mental well¬ 
being. 68 When asked how they had felt in the past week, the respondents 
answered as follows: 






1 . 

I felt 













My sleep 






was restless. 







I enjoyed 













I had crying 













I felt sad. 












I felt that 












disliked me. 

The Backlash Myth 


A large majority of women (82 percent) claimed they “enjoyed life 
most of the time.” The same small proportion (5 percent of men and 
women) said they had been depressed most of that week. That a lot of 
American women are enjoying life may not be newsworthy. But here is 
the astonishing way the Commonwealth Fund and Harris and Associates 
summarized the results of the questionnaire in their press release: “Survey 
results indicate that depression and low self-esteem are pervasive prob¬ 
lems for American women. Forty percent of the women surveyed report 
being severely depressed in the past week, compared with 26 percent of 
men.” 69 

This conclusion was somehow arrived at by the way the Harris poll 
interpreted the responses to the six questions. The survey’s report repre¬ 
sented this result graphically: 70 

Women and Depression 

Younger Women Are More Depressed than Older Women 
® 501 i 

Total Women 18-44 45-64 65 and Older 


* Derived from ranking responses to six statements regarding symptoms of depression. 

Humphrey Taylor, president of Louis Harris and Associates, an¬ 
nounced at the news conference that the results on women’s depression 
surprised him the most. 71 He said that the survey can “accurately be 
projected to the American female population [of 94.6 million]. This is far 
and away the most comprehensive survey ever done on women’s 
health.” 72 


Who Stole Feminism? 

Following the press conference and the news release on July 14, 1993, 
the bleak news about the mental condition of American women went out 
over the Reuters news wire under the headline survey shows 4 of 10 
women depressed: 

• A survey called the most comprehensive ever done on women’s 
health has found a large number—4 out of 10—suffered “severe 
depression.” . . . The study was called “important” by U.S. Health 
and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala who attended the 
[press] conference. “For too long health care [and] health research 
has been addressed from one point of view, the white male point of 
view.” 73 

The next day these stories appeared in news stories around the coun¬ 

• 4 in ten women polled suffer severe depression. (Orange County 

• 4 out of 10 women depressed, survey finds. (Baltimore Sun) 

• In a given week, 40 percent of women, compared to 26 percent of 
men, experienced “severe depression.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) 

• 40 percent of women compared to 26 percent of men experienced 
“severe depression” in the previous week. (Newark Star-Ledger) 

• Study: 40 percent of women feel severe depression. (Boston Herald) 

• The Harris poll conducted for the New York-based charitable orga¬ 
nization [the Commonwealth Fund] . . . found 40 percent of the 
women had suffered severe depression recently. (WCBS-AM news- 
radio, New York) 74 

These newspapers and radio station were relying on Reuters, and Reu¬ 
ters had relied on a special “Survey Highlights” prepared by the Com¬ 
monwealth Fund. No one seems to have looked at the actual survey 
results. But I did, and I was unable to fathom how those who interpreted 
them could possibly have come up with the finding about women’s 

I called the Commonwealth Fund and was put through to Mary John¬ 
son, the same polite program assistant I had spoken to when I questioned 
the inclusion of heated exchanges and insults between couples as in¬ 
stances of “psychological abuse” of women. This time 1 asked her how 
they had arrived at the statistic that 40 percent of women were severely 
depressed. What about the 82 percent of women who said they enjoyed 

The Backlash Myth 


life most of the time? “We pulled out certain findings that seemed sur¬ 
prising,” Ms. Johnson responded. “We are not saying they are clinically 

I told her that “severe depression” certainly sounded like the real thing 
—after all, this was a women’s health survey. I asked her again why the 
report paid no attention to the strong positive responses suggesting that 
most women were, overall, fairly happy. Ms. Johnson assured me again 
that the 40 percent figure was reliable, the product of a diagnostic method 
that had been developed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies (CES) 
and adapted by a team of “consultants” who had reduced the CES ques¬ 
tionnaire from twenty questions to six. I asked her for more details. She 
told me she had not been around when the survey was developed and 
put me on to her supervisor, Evelyn Walz, a program coordinator, who 
suggested that 1 address any further questions to the Harris poll. 

1 called Harris and Associates and reached Liz Cooner, a vice president, 
who told me that a Lois Hoeffler had been in charge of the women’s 
health survey but had since left to attend graduate school in sociology. 
Ms. Cooner offered to answer my questions in her stead. 

I asked her how the Harris people had come up with 40 percent of 
women severely depressed and told her that the responses suggested the 
opposite. She immediately rebuked me for using the term “severe depres¬ 
sion.” She said that was strong language and inappropriate for the find¬ 
ings. When I told her that I was only quoting the report, she said, “I have 
not seen it reported as ‘severe depression.’ ” I referred her to page 3 of the 
report, and to the “Highlights” and the graph. She agreed that if the report 
had indeed used the term “severe depression,” it was inappropriate. She 
said she did not know what I needed the information for, but since I had 
so many questions about the validity of the conclusions, I should proba¬ 
bly “just not reference it” in whatever I was writing. 

I reminded her of all the journalists who had already “referenced it,” 
not to mention Donna Shalala. Since she herself agreed that the an¬ 
nounced finding was incorrect, I asked her whether she might now wish 
to disassociate the Harris poll from this claim. She said she was in no 
position to do that, but I was free to write to Humphrey Taylor and ask 
him to reconsider. It seemed to me, however, that having been apprised 
of their error, Harris and Associates should now be taking the initiative 
in correcting it and making the correction public, not me. 

There was, moreover, another section of the Harris questionnaire, 
which never made it into the charts or newspaper stories. The 2,500 
women and 1,000 men were asked: “All things considered, how satisfied 
are you with your life these days?” Here are the percentage results: 


Who Stole Feminism? 




very satisfied 



somewhat satisfied 



not very satisfied 



not satisfied at all 



not sure 


If we project from these responses, we should conclude that 94 percent 
of women (and 93 percent of men) are at least somewhat content with 
their lives, a finding that hardly squares with the headline-grabbing figure 
of 40 percent severely depressed. Indeed, other polls, surveys, and studies 
suggest high levels of satisfaction among American women and men. The 
Gallup poll organization periodically takes a “Satisfaction with U.S. Per¬ 
sonal Life” survey in which it asks, “In general, are you satisfied or 
dissatisfied with the way things are going in your own personal life?” In 
March of 1992, 78 percent of women and 80 percent of men responded 
that they were satisfied. 75 In 1993, the San Francisco Chronicle did a survey 
on the life satisfaction of “baby boomers” (ages thirty through forty-seven) 
living in the Bay area and found that “baby boomer women are happier 
and more sexually satisfied than boomer men.” 76 

It is probably impossible to get accurate figures on something as am¬ 
biguous as life satisfaction. Depression, on the other hand, is a fairly well- 
defined disorder. If the guidelines and definitions laid down by the Amer¬ 
ican Psychiatric Association are followed, there are several questions 
pollsters could ask that would give them a fairly good idea of the preva¬ 
lence of depression. Here are two used by the American Psychiatric As¬ 
sociation (in conjunction with several others): 

• Have you been in a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every 

• Do you have a markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or 
almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day? 77 

Psychiatrists ask such questions to arrive at a diagnosis of depression, and 
epidemiologists use them to get an idea of its prevalence in the popula¬ 
tion. According to the National Institute of Mental Health’s Psychiatric 
Disorders in America, the yearly prevalence of depression is 2.2 percent 
for men and 5.0 percent for women; the lifetime rate is 3.6 percent for 
men and 8.7 percent for women. 78 I decided to check out the CES survey 
that Mary Johnson had told me the Harris researchers had adapted. I 
called the NIMH and was put in touch with Karen Bourdon, the psychol- 

The Backlash Myth 


ogist in charge of researching symptoms of community distress. What did 
they think of the way the Harris poll had used their scale? She said 
immediately, “We wish they would not do this. They should know better.” 

She explained that the survey instrument was never intended as a 
measure of depression: if all twenty questions are asked and carefully 
interpreted, it can be helpful in measuring symptoms of distress in a 
community but not in diagnosing a medical illness. She added that in 
some of her other studies she had found a similar percentage of men and 
women showing signs of affective distress: women have more symptoms 
of depression; men, of antisocial behavior and alcoholism. 79 

In informal conversations with several psychiatrists, I quickly learned 
that they considered a 40 percent depression finding (not to speak of 
“severe depression”) preposterous, because the responses to the six ques¬ 
tions the Harris pollsters had selected from the CES’s twenty did not 
show depression. They showed only that some women (and men) had 
felt “blue” during the week in question. They were at a loss to understand 
how Harris and Associates had come up with such a bizarre result. 

Faludi’s Backlash appeared before Harris and Associates published their 
figures on women’s depression, but she, too, found significantly higher 
rates of depression among women—married women, that is: 80 “Married 
women have more nervous breakdowns, nervousness, heart palpitations, 
and inertia . . . insomnia, trembling hands, dizzy spells, nightmares, hy¬ 
pochondria, passivity, agoraphobia . . . wives have the lowest self-esteem, 
felt the least attractive, reported the most loneliness.” 81 Her finding 
echoed feminist sociologist Jessie Bernard’s 1972 warning that “marriage 
may be hazardous to women’s health.” Yet in Psychiatric Disorders in 
America, we read, “The strong protective effect of marriage against affec¬ 
tive disorders is confirmed in much of the epidemiologic literature.” 82 
Here are the findings of a major National Institute of Mental Health 
Study: 83 


married (no divorce) 1.5 

never married 2.4 

divorced once 4.1 

divorced twice 5.8 

cohabiting 5.1 

In a 1989 review of the literature on marital happiness in Psychological 
Bulletin, the authors conclude, “For both sexes the married state (vs. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

unmarried) was associated with favorable well-being, but the favorable 
outcomes proved stronger for women than men.” 84 

The day after I talked to Mary Johnson and Liz Cooner, I received a 
call from Lois Hoeffler, the principal investigator who had left Harris and 
Associates to pursue a graduate degree in sociology. She was contacting 
me at the behest of Harris and Associates to explain the 40 percent finding. 

Ms. Hoeffler was charming, candid, and very sure of herself. When I 
asked her how she had selected the six questions from the NIMH/CES 
diagnostic questionnaire, she said, “We picked them out arbitrarily.” She 
told me that a footnote on page 185 of the Harris poll’s full report 
“explains that the findings were not meant as an indication of clinical 

I told her that the footnote she alluded to was nowhere in the Com¬ 
monwealth Fund report. Nowhere was there any public mention that 
“severe depression” was not meant literally. She agreed that the actual 
responses were not helpful for determining the prevalence of clinical 
depression, but they did show that more women are depressed than men. 
“If you are interested in gender differences, you can use these findings.” 

I asked her about the ideas that guided her in designing and interpret¬ 
ing the questionnaire. She told me she was very concerned that the Harris 
poll study not be just another study reflecting “white male norms” of 
research. She wanted to avoid the usual “phallocentric” bias. She said: “I 
am not really into phallocentric theory. So much of psychology is based 
on the fact that men are repressing women. I can’t handle it. Most of the 
mainstream theories are based on white male norms.” 

She had written her master’s thesis in Hunter College’s Social Research 
Program. Her topic was “feminist social theories of the self,” and her 
research analyzed the ideas of Carol Gilligan. She finds Gilligan inade¬ 
quate because “Gilligan is still grounded in male psychological theory.” 
Ms. Hoeffler told me that the radical feminist theologian Mary Daly was a 
more direct influence on her work. Another influence was Women’s Ways 
of Knowing, the book that introduced the dubious epistemological distinc¬ 
tion between “connected knowers” (women) and “separate knowers” 

Ms. Hoeffler told me that her work as a primary investigator for Harris 
and Associates provided her with a unique opportunity to implement her 
ideas. “It’s not everyone who can apply what they wrote in their master’s 
thesis. I was lucky.” I asked her whether her input had been an important 
factor in the final product, to which she replied, “I got in some stuff, but 
less than I might have.” “How open was Harris and Associates president 
Humphrey Taylor to her ideas?” I asked. 

The Backlash Myth 


Humphrey was attuned to feminist things when I was there. In the 
course of this project he became more aware. . . . But I do not try to 
reeducate men. I speak in their language. You have to speak in male 
language. You say: we should do this survey because it’s a hot topic 
and will make money, not we should do this because it’s the right 
thing to do. 

I asked her if there are other polling organizations in which feminist 
activists are influential. She said: “Oh yes. Greenberg-Lake.” The reader 
will remember that the AAUW used Greenberg-Lake as its polling agency 
in studying the self-esteem of adolescents. It came up with the dramatic 
and inaccurate figure that schoolgirls experience a “31 point drop in self¬ 

Hoeffler went on to say that with the increase in the number of femi¬ 
nists who are doing research, she expects more polls and surveys to reflect 
the new consciousness. “We are hitting the peak moment. A researcher’s 
politics are always in the research. We [feminist pollsters] balance it out.” 
Since she considers most research politically biased against women, she 
saw little reason to apologize for her feminist bias. 

Then she brought up Foucault. She had found most male researchers 
to be extremely unenlightened. Foucault had helped her to see why “those 
who are subjugated and marginal are positioned to see the situation more 
clearly.” “Foucault is great,” she concluded, and affirmed that his theories 
had “influenced my participation at Harris while I was there.” 

I had looked into two areas of the women’s health survey—those on 
psychological abuse and depression. Both revealed severe flaws and a 
pronounced ideological slant. There may well be problems with other 
parts of the survey. Did the Commonwealth Fund—one of the oldest 
foundations in America, with an endowment of $340 million—know that 
a study commissioned from a distinguished, long-established pollster 
would use a gynocentric researcher who sought to avoid “phallocentric” 

But perhaps the Commonwealth Fund is not merely sinned against. 
Ellen Futter, president of Barnard College, is chair of the Commonwealth 
Fund’s Commission on Women’s Health, which sponsored the Harris 
survey. She is among the many academic administrators who take pains 
to deny the existence of political correctness on America’s campuses. On 
the contrary, as she sees it, those who claim there is a problem are doing 
harm. In a recent interview with Anna Quindlen for Mirabella, Futter said 
that the “PC” debate had given the public a “skewed” picture of the 
academy. 85 “Because of these characterizations, some very . . . thoughtful 


Who Stole Feminism? 

efforts to broaden the presentation of intellectual ideas. . . have been 
miscast.” President Futter should take a close look at the “thoughtful 
efforts” that went into the women’s health survey, commissioned under 
her watch. 86 

Hoeffler had successfully seen to it that the Harris report was not just 
another study applying “white male norms” of research. Donna Shalala 
spotted this feature of the report and commended it as a distinguishing 
virtue. One must hope that her comment that “white male” research has 
prevailed “for too long” does not represent a considered judgment. For 
unlike Ms. Hoeffler, an ideological Ms. Shalala would be no bit player in 
the misandrist game that the gender feminist zealots are playing. The 
professionalism of American research is an enormous and precious na¬ 
tional resource. And Ms. Shalala heads a department whose outlays are 
almost double that of the Department of Defense. 

Robert Reich, the U.S secretary of labor, wrote a blurb for Backlash 
describing it as “spellbinding and frightening ... a wake-up call to the 
men as well as the women who are struggling to build a gender-respectful 
society.” 87 One can only hope, again, that Reich was too spellbound to 
have read Backlash with a discriminating mind. What is more alarming 
than anything Faludi has to say about an undeclared war against Ameri¬ 
can women is the credulity it has met in high public officials on whose 
judgment we ought to be able to rely. 

Chapter 12 

The Gender Wardens 

Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second. 

—Phil Kerby, Los Angeles Times 
editorial writer, on a postcard to 
Nat Hentoff 1 

Question: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb? 
Feminist answer: That’s not funny. 

It is sometimes said that feminists don’t have a sense of humor. Yet, 
there are some situations, not funny to most women, that gender feminists 
seem to find very amusing. 

About a thousand feminists were present at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y 
on Mother’s Day 1992 to hear a debate between Susan Faludi and Playboy 
columnist Asa Baber. Baber opened his talk by observing that on Mother’s 
Day, the phone lines throughout the United States are jammed because 
everyone is trying to call home to talk to their mothers. On Father’s Day, 
the lines are free. “We have to ask why there is so much less interest in 
fathers,” said Baber. 2 

The assembled women, most of them fans of Ms. Faludi, found this 
uproarious. “It brought down the house,” said Baber. “At first, I didn’t get 
it. I thought my fly was open.” But then he caught on and said, “If you 
think that is funny, you are going to think this is a laugh riot: I think the 


Who Stole Feminism? 

fact that our fathers are so much out of the loop is a major tragedy in our 

Baber had taken another misstep, but this time he didn’t tickle anyone’s 
funny bone. An outraged audience hissed and booed him. Later, when he 
was asked whether this was because his hecklers believed that men were 
useless, irrelevant, and potentially dangerous, Baber answered, “You got 
it.” 3 To them he appeared to be just another patriarch exacting homage. 

The jeering, hooting atmosphere in which Baber found himself was 
familiar to me. I had encountered it in the “safe spaces” where gender 
feminists gather to tell one another put-down stories describing how a 
sister had routed some male who didn’t have a clue at how offensive he 
was (recall the “Shut up, you fucker” with which one partisan had 
squelched an unsuspecting male student critic in a feminist classroom). 
I’d heard it in the appreciative laughter of the audience when feminist 
academics reported to them on how they had played on the liberal guilt 
of the faculty to get their projects approved. Baber was in the camp of the 
enemy, and anything he had to say was regarded as offensive or, if he 
were lucky, laughable. 

The derision of the women who were hooting at Baber was safely 
directed at “men.” One must wonder what Baber’s audience would make 
of the millions of women who still observe the amenities of Father’s Day. 
So intent are gender feminists on condemning the “patriarchy” that they 
rarely let on how they feel about women who “go along.” Nevertheless, it 
is not hard to see that in jeering at Baber, they were also jeering at most 
American women. 

That is the corrosive paradox of gender feminism’s misandrist stance: 
no group of women can wage war on men without at the same time 
denigrating the women who respect those men. It is just not possible to 
incriminate men without implying that large numbers of women are fools 
or worse. Other groups have had their ofhcial enemies—workers against 
capitalists, whites against blacks, Hindus against Muslims—and for a 
while such enmities may be stable. But when women set themselves 
against men, they simultaneously set themselves against other women in 
a group antagonism that is untenable from the outset. In the end, the 
gender feminist is always forced to show her disappointment and annoy¬ 
ance with the women who are to be found in the camp of the enemy. 
Misandry moves on to misogyny. 

Betty Friedan once told Simone de Beauvoir that she believed women 
should have the choice to stay home to raise their children if that is what 
they wish to do. Beauvoir answered: “No, we don’t believe that any 
woman should have this choice. No woman should be authorized to stay 

The Gender Wardens 


at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women 
should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, 
too many women will make that one.” 4 

De Beauvoir thought this drastic policy was needed to prevent women 
from leading blighted conventional lives. Though she does not spell it 
out, she must have been aware that her “totally different” society would 
require a legion of Big Sisters endowed by the state with the power to 
prohibit any woman who wants to marry and stay home with children 
from carrying out her plans. She betrays the patronizing attitude typical 
of many gender feminists toward “uninitiated” women. 

An illiberal authoritarianism is implicit in the doctrine that women are 
socialized to want the things the gender feminist believes they should not 
want. For those who believe that what women want and hope for is 
“constrained” or “coerced” by their upbringing in the patriarchy are led 
to dismiss the values and aspirations of most women. The next step may 
not be inevitable, but it is almost irresistible: to regard women as badly 
brought-up children whose harmful desires and immature choices must 
be discounted. 

Gender feminists, such as Sandra Lee Bartky, argue for a “feminist 
reconstruction of self and society [that] must go far beyond anything now 
contemplated in the theory or politics of the mainstream women’s move¬ 
ment.” 5 Bartky, who writes on “the phenomenology of feminist con¬ 
sciousness,” is concerned with what a proper feminist consciousness 
should be like. In her book Femininity and Domination, she says, “A 
thorough overhaul of desire is clearly on the feminist agenda: the fantasy 
that we are overwhelmed by Rhett Butler should be traded in for one in 
which we seize state power and reeducate him.” 6 Bartky, however, does 
not advocate any authoritarian measures to protect women from incorrect 
values and preferences shaped by “the masters of patriarchal society.” She 
points out that at present we do not know how to “decolonize the imagi¬ 
nation.” 7 She cautions that “overhauling” desires and “trading in” popular 
fantasies may have to wait for the day when feminist theorists develop an 
“adequate theory of sexuality.” In her apocalyptic feminist vision, women 
as well as men may one day be radically reconstructed. We will have 
learned to prefer the “right” way to live. 

Although they may disagree politically about what measures to take 
with women who make the wrong choices, de Beauvoir and her latter- 
day descendants share a common posture: they condescend to, patronize, 
and pity the benighted females who, because they have been “socialized” 
in the sex/gender system, cannot help wanting the wrong things in life. 
Their disdain for the hapless victims of patriarchy is rarely acknowledged. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

When feminists talk of a new society and of how people must be changed, 
they invariably have in mind men who exploit and abuse women. But it 
is not difficult to see that they regard most women as men’s dupes. 

Consider how Naomi Wolf (in the Beauty Myth ) regards the eight 
million American women members of Weight Watchers—as cultists in 
need of deprogramming. Most gender feminists may not be ready to 
advocate coercion of women of low feminist consciousness, but they are 
very much in favor of a massive and concerted effort to give the desires, 
aspirations, and values of American women a thorough makeover. As the 
feminist philosopher Alison Jaggar puts it, “If individual desires and in¬ 
terests are socially constituted . . . , the ultimate authority of individual 
judgment comes into question. Perhaps people may be mistaken about 
truth, morality or even their own interests; perhaps they may be system¬ 
atically self-deceived.” 8 Note that Jaggar explicitly impugns the traditional 
liberal principle that the many individual judgments and preferences are 
the ultimate authority. I find that a chilling doctrine: when the people are 
systematically self-deceived, the ultimate authority is presumed to be 
vested in a vanguard that unmasks their self-deception. As Ms. Jaggar 
says, “Certain historical circumstances allow specific groups of women to 
tianscend at least partially the perceptions and theoretical constructs of 
male dominance.” 9 It is these women of high feminist consciousness who 
“inspire and guide women in a struggle for social change.” 

Respect for people’s preferences is generally thought to be fundamental 
for democracy. But ideologues find ways of denying this principle. The 
gender feminist who claims to represent the true interests of women is 
convinced that she profoundly understands their situation and so is in an 
exceptional position to know their true interests. In practice, this means 
she is prepared to dismiss popular preferences in an illiberal way. To 
justify this, feminist philosopher Marilyn Friedman argues that popular 
preferences are often “inauthentic” and that even liberals are aware of 

Liberal feminists can easily join with other feminists in recognizing 
that political democracy by itself is insufficient to ensure that pref¬ 
erences are formed without coercion, constraint, undue restriction 
of options, and so forth. Social, cultural, and economic conditions 
are as important as political conditions, if not more so, in ensuring 
that preferences are, in some important sense, authentic. 10 

Friedman is quite wrong in her assumptions: anyone, liberal or conser¬ 
vative, who believes in democracy will sense danger in them. Who will 

The Gender Wardens 


“ensure” that preferences are “authentic”? What additions to political 
democracy does Friedman have in mind? A constitutional amendment to 
provide reeducation camps for men and women of false consciousness? 
Is she prepared to go the authoritarian route indicated by de Beauvoir? 

The feminist who thinks that democracy is insufficient believes that 
seemingly free and enlightened American women have values and desires 
that, unbeknownst to them, are being manipulated by a system intent on 
keeping women subjugated to men. Romance, a major cause of defection 
from the gynocentric enclave, is ever a sticking point with gender femi¬ 
nists. Gloria Steinem, writing on the subject, engages in this kind of 
debunking “critique”: “Romance itself serves a larger political purpose by 
offering at least a temporary reward for gender roles and threatening 
rebels with loneliness and rejection. ... It privatizes our hopes and dis¬ 
tracts us from making societal changes. The Roman ‘bread and circuses’ 
way of keeping the masses happy. . . . might now be updated.” 11 Jaggar, 
too, sees in romance a distraction from sexual politics: “The ideology of 
romantic love has now become so pervasive that most women in contem¬ 
porary capitalism probably believe that they marry for love rather than 
for economic support.” 12 

For her authoritarian disdain, de Beauvoir deserves our liberal censure. 
But the less authoritarian feminists also deserve it. No intelligent and 
liberal person—no one who has read and appreciated the limpid political 
prose of George Orwell or who has learned from the savage history of 
twentieth-century totalitarianism—can accept the idea of a social agenda 
to “overhaul” the desires of large numbers of people to make them more 

In her defense, the gender feminist replies that effective teachers or 
political leaders must always try to help others overcome benightedness. 
When women are caught in a system designed to perpetuate male domi¬ 
nation, they must be enlightened. There is nothing intrinsically illiberal 
about seeking to make them conscious of their subjugation. It is the very 
essence of a liberal education to open minds and enlighten consciousness. 
If that entails “reeducating” them and overhauling their desires, so be it. 

This argument could easily be made in an earlier era when classically 
liberal principles were being applied to men but not to women. In the 
nineteenth century, the proposition that all men are created equal was 
taken to mean “all males.” Women did not have the rights that men had, 
and, what is more, they were being taught that their subordinate status 
was fitting and natural. Feminist philosophers like John Stuart Mill and 
Harriet Taylor rightly feared that such teaching was helping to perpetuate 
inequities. Under the circumstances, political democracy applied only 


Who Stole Feminism? 

minimally to women. Because they did not vote, their preferences were 
not in play, and the question of how authentic their preferences were was 
of importance inasmuch as it affected their ability to agitate for the rights 
that were being withheld from them. 

But women are no longer disenfranchised, and their preferences are 
being taken into account. Nor are they now taught that they are subordi¬ 
nate or that a subordinate role for them is fitting and proper. Have any 
women in history been better informed, more aware of their rights and 
options? Since women today can no longer be regarded as the victims of 
an undemocratic indoctrination, we must regard their preferences as “au¬ 
thentic.” Any other attitude toward American women is unacceptably 
patronizing and profoundly illiberal. 

Gender feminists are especially disapproving of the lives of traditionally 
religious women such as evangelical Christian women, Catholic women, 
or Orthodox Jewish women, whom they see as being conditioned for 
highly restricted roles. Surely, they say, it is evident that such women are 
subjugated, and the choices they make inauthentic. As Gloria Steinem 
explains it, the appeal of religious fundamentalism for women is that “the 
promise is safety in return for obedience, respectability in return for self- 
respect and freedom—a sad bargain.” 13 

That is a harsh judgment to make about millions of American women. 
Ms. Steinem is of course free to disagree with conventionally religious 
women on any number of issues, but she is not morally free to cast 
aspersions on their autonomy and self-respect. The New Feminism is 
supposed to be about sisterhood. Why are its most prominent practition¬ 
ers so condescending? 

Steinem herself knows a thing or two about how to recruit adherents 
to a cause by promises of “safety” and “self-respect.” The feminist ortho¬ 
doxy she portrays promises safety in a sisterhood that will offer unhappy 
or insecure women a venue where they can build self-esteem and attain 
an authenticity enjoyed by no other group of women. 14 

The traditionally religious women of today, be they Protestant Chris¬ 
tians, Orthodox Jews, or observant Catholics—emphatically do not think 
of themselves as subjugated, lacking in self-respect, or unfree. Indeed, 
they very properly resent being described that way. For they are perfectly 
aware that they have all the rights that men have. If they choose to lead 
the lives they do, that is their affair. 

Of course there are feminists who disapprove of the way these women 
live, and some may even think of them as pitiable. These feminists are 

The Gender Wardens 


perfectly at liberty to try to persuade them to change their way of life. For 
their part, traditional women might try to persuade the feminists of the 
merits of the religious way of life. Mostly, however, gender feminists are 
content to dismiss and even jeer at the religious women without engaging 
or confronting them in a respectful dialogue, and it is not surprising that 
the latter have grown increasingly impatient with their feminist critics. 

Several years ago, Liz Harris wrote an extraordinary and much-talked- 
about article for the New Yorker on the ultraorthodox Hasidic women of 
Brooklyn, New York. 15 She had expected to find oppressed women— 
“self-effacing drudges” worn down by a family system that exalted men 
and denigrated women. Instead, she was impressed by their strong mar¬ 
riages, their large, thriving families, and their “remarkably energetic, mu¬ 
tually supportive community of women, an almost Amazonian society.” 
“Most of the [Hasidic] women sped around like intergalactic missiles, and 
the greater majority of those I was to encounter seemed ... to be as 
occupied with worthy projects as Eleanor Roosevelt, as hospitable as 
Welcome Wagoneers.” 16 

My relatives on my husband’s side are Jewish, and most are Orthodox. 
Ms. Harris’s description fits them to a T. At family gatherings, I sometimes 
tell my sister-in-law, my nieces, and their friends about the feminist 
theorists who pity them and would liberate them from their “gendered 
families.” They are more amused than offended. It might surprise Gloria 
Steinem to hear they have a rather shrewd understanding of her kind of 
feminism. They simply want no part of it. They believe they have made 
an autonomous choice: they also believe their way of life offers them such 
basic advantages as community, grace, dignity, and spirituality. They see 
the patriarchal aspects of their tradition as generally benign. Some of 
them find aspects of Judaism insensitive to important concerns of women, 
but they are even more put off by the gender feminist’s rejection of 
traditional religion. 

But of course it is not only religious women who reject the gender 
feminist perspective. A clear majority of secular American women enjoy 
many aspects of “la difference.” Many want things that gender feminists 
are trying to free them from, be it conventional marriages and families, or 
fashions and makeup that sometimes render them “sex objects.” Such 
feminists are uncomfortably aware that they are not reaching these 
women; but instead of asking themselves where they may be going wrong, 
they fall back on the question-begging theory of false consciousness to 
explain the mass indifference of the women they want to save. 


Who Stole Feminism? 

For the gender feminists do want to save women—from themselves. 
False consciousness is said to be endemic in the patriarchy. And every 
feminist has her theory. Feminists who specialize in the theory of feminist 
consciousness talk about mechanisms by which “patriarchy invades the 
intimate recesses of personality where it may maim and cripple the spirit 
forever.” 17 However, a growing number of women are questioning 
whether gender feminism, with its insistence that personal relationships 
be construed in terms of political power, has taken much of the joy out 
of male/female intimacy, maiming and crippling the spirit of some of its 
devotees forever. 

A few years ago, an op-ed piece I wrote for the Chronicle oj Higher 
Education aroused a storm of protest because it defended the “many 
women [who] continue to swoon at the sight of Rhett Butler carrying 
Scarlett O’Hara up the stairs to a fate undreamt of in feminist philoso¬ 
phy.” 18 The Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP), an organization 
within the American Philosophical Association, arranged for a public 
debate between Marilyn Friedman, a philosopher from the University of 
Washington, and me. Ms. Friedman informed the overflow audience that 
she was stunned by my flippant reaction to Rhett’s rape of Scarlett—for 
rape she considered it to be. “The name of Richard Speck, to take one 
example, can remind us that real rape is not the pleasurable fantasy 
intimated in Gone with the Wind. To put the point graphically: would 
‘many women’ still swoon over Butler’s rape of O’Hara if they knew that 
he urinated on her?” 19 Lest readers wonder how they could have missed 
that lurid scene in Gone with the Wind, 1 hasten to say that Ms. Friedman 
made up this detail presumably to bolster her point. In my rejoinder, I 
told the audience about a recent poll taken by Harriet Taylor, the feminist 
author of Scarlett’s Women: “Gone with the Wind” and Its Female Fans. 20 
Ms. Taylor did not pretend that her survey was scientific, but what she 
found has the ring of truth. She asked GWTW fans what they thought 
had happened when Scarlett was carried up the stairs. The overwhelming 
majority of the four hundred respondents indicated that they did not 
think Rhett raped Scarlett, though there was some “mutually pleasurable 
rough sex.” 21 Almost all reported that they found the scene “erotically 
exciting.” As one respondent put it: 

Scarlett’s story is that of a woman who has had lousy sex from two 
incompetent husbands (a “boy” and an “old man,” as Rhett reminds 
her) [who] knew nothing about women. At last she finds out what 

The Gender Wardens 


good sex feels like, even if (or probably because) her first experience 

takes place in mutual inebriation and a spirit of vengeful anger. 22 

The idea of “mutually pleasurable rough sex” is not high on the gender 
feminist list of entertainments. All the same, if the New Feminist philos¬ 
ophers were honest about taking women seriously, they would be paying 
attention to what, in most women’s minds, is a fundamental distinction: 
Scarlett was ravished, not raped. The next morning finds her relishing the 
memory. Ms. Friedman’s insistence that Scarlett was raped was just an¬ 
other example of how gender feminists, estranged from the women they 
claim to represent, tend to view male/female relations as violent or hu¬ 
miliating to women. 

Friedman, like Bartky, takes comfort in the idea that women’s desires 
and aspirations will change in time. Younger women, she says, are already 
less inclined to be taken in by the Rhett Butler mystique, and his fasci¬ 
nation should continue to diminish. That is, unless people like me give 
younger women the idea that there is nothing wrong with taking pleasure 
in Scarlett’s enraptured submission. 

“How sad it would be,” she writes, “if Sommers’s writings acted as an 
obstacle to change, bolstering those who interpret the sexual domination 
of women as pleasurable, and intimidating those who speak out against 
such domination.” 23 

Ms. Friedman considers Sandra Bartky to be one of her mentors and 
Bartky is, indeed, of the opinion that active measures should be taken to 
prevent the spread of “harmful” writings. In 1990 I was commissioned by 
the Atlantic to do a piece on campus feminism. When Sandra Bartky 
somehow learned of this, she wrote to the editors, pleading with them 
not to publish it. She told them that 1 was a disreputable philosopher and 
“a right-wing ideologue.” The Chronicle of Higher Education found out 
about the flap, and called Ms. Bartky to ask her why she had written 
the letter. At first she denied having asked them to suppress my piece, 
claiming that she had only requested that my article be accompanied 
by another giving a different point of view. But when the Chronicle re¬ 
porter pointed out that he had a copy of the letter and that it contained 
no such request, she defiantly admitted having tried to stop the piece: “I 
wouldn’t want a nut case who thinks there wasn’t a Holocaust to write 
about the Holocaust. Editors exercise discretion. By not asking someone 
to write a piece, that’s not censorship, that’s discretion.” 24 

Inadvertently, Bartky got her way. By the time the whole matter was 
sorted out, the Atlantic had gone on to other issues. Editor Michael Curtis 
told the Chronicle that he was embarrassed that the piece had not been 


Who Stole Feminism? 

published. The Chronicle reporter asked what he thought of Bartky’s let¬ 
ter. “It seemed to confirm some of the darker aspects of Ms. Sommers’s 
article, which pointed out the extraordinary lengths some of the women 
were prepared to go to shape all discussion in which they had an interest,” 
he replied. 25 

Rhett Butler continues to pique the gender feminists. Naomi Wolf, at 
least in her earlier incarnation, was fond of explaining to the public how 
women cooperate in their own degradation. When asked why women 
enjoyed the “rape scene” in Gone with the Wind, Ms. Wolf answered that 
they had been “trained” to accept that kind of treatment and so grew to 
like it: “It’s not surprising that, after decades of being exposed to a culture 
that consistently eroticizes violence against women, women, too, would 
often internalize their own training.” 26 

I can’t help being amused by how upset the New Feminists get over 
the vicarious pleasure women take in Scarlett’s transports. All that incor¬ 
rect swooning! How are we ever going to get women to see how wrong it 
is? Nevertheless, the gender feminists seem to believe that thirty years 
from now, with the academy transformed and the feminist consciousness 
of the population raised, there will be a new Zeitgeist. Women who 
interpret sexual domination as pleasurable will then be few and far be¬ 
tween, and Scarlett, alas, will be out of style. 

Is this scenario out of the question? I think it is. Sexuality has always 
been part of our natures, and there is no one right way. Men like Rhett 
Butler will continue to fascinate many women. Nor will the doctrine that 
this demeans them have much of an effect. How many women who like 
Rhett Butler-types are in search of support groups to help them change? 
Such women are not grateful to the gender feminists for going to war 
against male lust. They may even be offended at the suggestion that they 
themselves are being degraded and humiliated; for that treats their enjoy¬ 
ment as pathological. 

Defending women who enjoy the idea of ravishment is not the same as 
holding a brief for any specific kind of fantasy or sexual preference. 
Fantasies of female domination are also popular. Women are clearly ca¬ 
pable of treating men as “sex objects” with an enthusiasm equal to, and 
in some cases exceeding, that of men for treating women as such. Male 
strip-shows seem to be as popular as Tupperware parties. 

The dissident feminist Camille Paglia uses the term pagan gazers for 
those who publicly watch males or females as sex objects. She has no 
quarrel with the male gazers, but she positively applauds the female ones. 
“Women are getting much more honest about looking at men, and about 
leering. Finally we’re getting somewhere.” 27 

The Gender Wardens 


If Paglia is right, sexual liberation may not be going in the direction of 
eliminating the Other as a sex object; it may instead be going in the direc¬ 
tion of encouraging women to objectify the male as Other, too. Such a de¬ 
velopment would certainly be a far cry from the gender feminist utopia 
described by University of Massachusetts philosopher Ann Ferguson: 

With the elimination of sex roles, and the disappearance, in an 
overpopulated world, of any biological need for sex to be associated 
with procreation, there would be no reason why such a society 
could not transcend sexual gender. It would no longer matter what 
biological sex individuals had. Love relationships, and the sexual 
relationships developing out of them, would be based on the indi¬ 
vidual meshing together of androgynous human beings. 28 

Ferguson’s utopia conjures up visions of a world of gender-neutral 
characters like Pat on “Saturday Night Live.” Although Pat-like people 
can be very nice (doubtless, never rough), their sexually correct meshings 
do not invite heated speculation. To put the matter bluntly: the androg¬ 
ynous society has always been a boring feminist fairy tale with no roots 
in psychological or social reality. 

A group of gay women who call themselves “lipstick lesbians” are 
rebelling against the androgynous ideal that feminists like Ann Ferguson 
and Joyce Trebilcot celebrate. According to Lindsy Van Gelder, a writer 
for Allure magazine, the lipstick lesbians are tired of Birkenstock and 
L. L. Bean courtier, “womyn’s” music festivals, potluck dinners, and all 
the “rigid dos and don’ts of feminist ideology.” 29 She reports on several 
lesbian go-go bars in different parts of the country where lipstick les¬ 
bians congregate and treat each other in ways that are very much frowned 
upon in most gender feminist circles. 

I believe that the Bartkys, the Friedmans, and the Fergusons are 
doomed to disappointment but that in any case no feminist should ever 
have an agenda of managing women’s desires and fantasies. For suppose 
we could succeed in “trading in the fantasy of being overwhelmed by 
Rhett Butler for one in which we seize state power and reeducate him.” 
Suppose, indeed, that we succeeded in getting most people to feel and to 
behave in ways that are sexually correct by gender feminist lights. Once 
the methods and institutions for overhauling desires are in place, what 
would prevent their deployment by new groups who have different con¬ 
ceptions of what is sexually correct and incorrect? Having seized state 
power, some zealous faction would find ready to hand the apparatus 


Who Stole Feminism? 

needed for reeducating people to its idea of what is “authentic,” not only 
sexually but politically and culturally. 

So far, the efforts to get women to overhaul their fantasies and desires 
have been noncoercive, but they do not seem to have been particularly 
effective. To get the results they want, the gender feminists have turned 
their attention to art and literature, where fantasies are manufactured and 
reinforced. Ms. Friedman calls our attention to Angela Carter’s feminist 
rewrite of the “morning after” scene in Gone with the Wind: “Scarlett lies 
in bed smiling the next morning because she broke Rhett’s kneecaps the 
night before. And the reason that he disappeared before she awoke was 
to go off to Europe to visit a good kneecap specialist.” 30 

This is meant to be amusing, but of course the point is serious. For the 
gender feminist believes that Margaret Mitchell got it wrong. If Mitchell 
had understood better how to make a true heroine of Scarlett, she would 
have made her different. Scarlett would then have been the kind of person 
who would plainly see that Rhett must be severely punished for what he 
had inflicted on her the night before. More generally, the gender feminist 
believes she must rebut and replace the fiction that glorifies dominant 
males and the women who find them attractive. This popular literature, 
which “eroticizes” male dominance, must be opposed and, if possible, 
eradicated. Furthermore, the feminist establishment must seek ways to 
foster the popularity of a new genre of romantic film and fiction that 
sends a more edifying message to the women and men of America. A 
widely used textbook gives us a fair idea of what that message should be: 

Plots for nonsexist films could include women in traditionally male 
jobs (e.g., long-distance truck driver). . . . For example, a high- 
ranking female Army officer, treated with respect by men and 
women alike, could be shown not only in various sexual encounters 
with other people but also carrying out her job in a humane manner. 

Or perhaps the main character could be a female urologist. She 
could interact with nurses and other medical personnel, diagnose 
illnesses brilliantly, and treat patients with great sympathy as well 
as have sex with them. When the Army officer or the urologist 
engage in sexual activities, they will treat their partners and be 
treated by them in some of the considerate ways described above. 31 

The truck driver and the urologist are meant to be serious role models 
for the free feminist woman, humane, forthrightly sexual, but not discrim¬ 
inating against either gender in her preferences for partners, so consider¬ 
ate that all will respect her. These models are projected in the hope that 

The Gender Wardens 


someday films and novels with such themes and heroines will be pre¬ 
ferred, replacing the currently popular “incorrect” romances with a more 
acceptable ideal. 

It seems a futile hope. Perhaps the best way to see what the gender 
feminists are up against is to compare their version of romance with that 
embodied in contemporary romance fiction that sells in the millions. Here 
is a typical example: 

Townsfolk called him devil. For dark and enigmatic Julian, Earl of 
Ravenwood, was a man with a legendary temper and a first wife 
whose mysterious death would not be forgotten. . . . Now country- 
bred Sophy Dorring is about to become Ravenwood’s new bride. 
Drawn to his masculine strength and the glitter of desire that burned 
in his emerald eyes, the tawny-haired lass had her own reasons for 
agreeing to a marriage of convenience. . . . Sophy Dorring intended 
to teach the devil to love. 32 

Romance novels amount to almost 40 percent of all mass-market pa¬ 
perback sales. Harlequin Enterprises alone has sales of close to 200 mil¬ 
lion books worldwide. They appear in many languages, including 
Japanese, Swedish, and Greek, and they are now beginning to appear in 
Eastern Europe. The readership is almost exclusively women. 33 The chal¬ 
lenge this presents to gender feminist ideologues is most formidable since 
almost every hero in this fictional genre is an “alpha male” like Rhett 
Butler or the Earl of Ravenwood. It was therefore to be expected that the 
New Feminists would make a concerted attempt to correct this literature 
and to replace it by a new one. 

Kathleen Gilles Seidel reports that “young, politically conscious edi¬ 
tors” have been pressuring writers “to conform to at least the appearance 
of a more feminist fantasy.” 34 But these authors “felt that an alien sensi¬ 
bility was being forced on their work, that they weren’t being allowed to 
speak to their readers in their own voices. They didn’t want to write about 
heroines who repair helicopters.” 35 Ms. Seidel notes that editorial pres¬ 
sure was especially strong on writers who were drawn to the macho, 
domineering hero. 

Seidel is echoed by Jayne Ann Krentz, the hugely successful writer of 
romance fiction who created the intriguing earl and his Sophy: 

Much of this effort was exerted by a wave of young editors fresh out 
of East Coast colleges who arrived in New York to take up their first 
positions in publishing. . . . They set about trying to make romances 


Who Stole Feminism? 

respectable. They looked for new authors who shared their views of 
what a respectable romance should be, and they tried to change the 
books being written by the established, successful authors they in¬ 
herited. The first target of these reforming editors was what has 
come to be known in the trade as the alpha male. 36 

Ms. Krentz lists several more “targets,” among them “the aggressive 
seduction of the heroine by the hero” and the convention that the heroine 
is a virgin. The young editors’ failure was “resounding.” 37 Their exhorta¬ 
tions to change had little effect on the more established writers. Nor did 
they succeed in their aim of getting new writers to introduce a new and 
popular genre of “politically correct romances . . . featuring sensitive, un- 
aggressive heroes and sexually experienced, right-thinking heroines in 
‘modem’ stories dealing with trendy issues. . . . Across the board, from 
series romance to single title release, it is the writers who have steadfastly 
resisted the efforts to reform the genre whose books consistently outsell 
all others.” 38 

Sales are the true gauge of public preference; in the last analysis, it was 
the readers’ resistance to the “right-thinking” heroines and heros that 
caused the zealous editors to unbend and retreat. 

The effort to impose feminist rectitude sometimes surfaces in less pop¬ 
ular literary genres. The Israeli poet Gershom Gorenberg, who had sub¬ 
mitted several poems to Marge Piercy, poetry editor of Tikkun magazine, 
received a letter from her that read: “I found your work witty and original, 
and I am taking parts of [it] for . . . Tikkun. I have to say I am not fond of 
the way you write about women, but I have left out those parts. When I 
blot out those parts, I like what you are doing.” 39 

Gorenberg’s first impulse was to search his poetry for the “criminal 
stanzas,” although he could find nothing in his writing that struck him as 
sexist: “And then I realize that the inquisitor is succeeding admirably: 
The very vagueness of the charge has driven me to search for my sins, 
incriminate myself, confess.” 40 

Gorenberg saw that the blotting had larger implications and described 
it in an op-ed column for the New York Times. It was published along 
with a rebuttal by Piercy. Piercy was indignant: “I try to pick the best 
work that comes through the mailbox—and the best has to consider the 
implications of the language used and the sensitivities of many groups, 
including women. Why would I publish work that degrades me?” 41 

Piercy defends a censorship that she herself has never been subjected 
to. We may imagine her outrage if an editor had tried to blot out any part 
of her novel Women on the Edge of Time for its treatment of traditional 

The Gender Wardens 


family values. She there described a gender feminist utopia in which both 
women and men are able to bear children and to nurse. It is unfortunate 
that Ms. Piercy’s concern for liberating women from biological constraints 
is not matched by a passionate regard for free expression. 

Established and successful writers have not found it too difficult to 
resist the gender feminist pressures. Younger writers are more vulnerable. 
In 1992, Pam Houston published a collection of critically esteemed short 
stories entitled Cowboys Are My Weakness. Some of her female characters 
“have a susceptibility to a certain kind of emotionally unavailable man,” 
and Ms. Houston, who gives workshops to other young writers, often 
finds herself in the line of fire from feminists who are convinced she is 
doing great harm to the cause. 42 During one of her opening sessions, she 
was confronted by a woman who asked, “How can you take responsibility 
for putting stories like these out in the world?” Houston points out that 
her feminist critics “confuse fiction with self-help literature.” 

Because she writes as she does, Ms. Houston receives hate mail, harass¬ 
ing phone calls, and threats. She tells of other writers like herself, young 
and old, who feel compelled to “apologize for their female characters if 
they were anything short of amazonian ... if their character was ‘only a 
waitress,’ sorry if she stayed at home and took care of the kids . . . sorry 
if she failed at the bar, or lost her keys, or loved a man.” Houston warns 
that with “Big Sister” watching, women seem not to be “grant[ing] one 
another the right to tell the story of their own experience.” She believes 
“the pressure women are putting on each other” to be “more insidious 
and far harder to resist than the pressure men have used to try to silence 
women for centuries.” Indeed, she says, “in 1994, women are silencing 
each other and we are doing it so effectively that we are even silencing 
ourselves.” 43 

In some ways, the art world offers even better prospects than literature 
for an ideologically correct censorious revisionism. A recent exhibit at 
New York’s Whitney Museum Sixty-Seventh Biennial presented exam¬ 
ples of art that is acceptably didactic in celebrating “women’s rage.” One 
work by Sue Williams explains itself: “The art world can suck my pro¬ 
verbial . . . ,” which the catalog says “wrenches painting away from its 
white male domain.” Two works express the artist’s fury over women’s 
vulnerability to eating disorders: one consists of a large amount of plastic 
vomit on the floor; the other, called “Gnaw,” consists of two six-hundred- 
pound cubes of chocolate and lard with the artist’s teeth marks in them. 
Another installation contains three casts of a larynx and tongue, which 
we are meant to take as the remains of a mutilated woman, and is accom¬ 
panied by sounds of women’s laughter and crying. The casts are made 


Who Stole Feminism? 

out of lipstick, to represent, as the catalog explains, “the silencing of 
women through the use of a specifically gendered material.” 44 

Political art freely created can be exciting. But art wrought under the 
constraint of a political ideology is at best boring and at worst dreadful. 
That much is known from the history of “socialist realism,” long a blight 
on Soviet literature and art. The more serious constraints, however, do 
not come in what is produced but in what is choked off. 

Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of 
American Art, invoked “two decades of feminist writing” as support for 
her decision to remove from an exhibit a work of Sol LeWitt that she 
deemed “degrading and offensive.” The offending work was described by 
the New York Times: 

It consists of a black box, about one foot tall, one foot deep and 
eight feet long, across the front of which 10 tiny holes have been 
drilled. The inside of the box is illuminated to reveal a series of 
photographs visible through the holes. The photographs depict a 
nude woman moving toward the viewer, beginning with a distant 
grainy image of her entire body and concluding with a closeup of 
her navel. 45 

Sol LeWitt had made the exhibit to honor the pioneer photographer 
Eadweard Muybridge. The little holes were references to the openings in 
Muybridge’s multiple cameras, which gave the illusion of motion before 
the era of motion pictures. Ms. Broun saw it otherwise. “Peering through 
successive peepholes and focusing increasingly on the pubic region in¬ 
vokes unequivocal references to a degrading pornographic experience. I 
cannot in good conscience offer this experience to our visitors as a mean¬ 
ingful and important one.” 46 After a protest, LeWitt’s piece was reinstated. 

Unfortunately, the great Spanish artist Francisco de Goya did not meet 
with such luck at Pennsylvania State University. Nancy Stumhofer, an 
instructor in the English department, took offense at a reproduction of 
the Goya painting The Naked Maja, which, along with reproductions of 
several other European paintings, had hung in her classroom longer than 
anyone could remember. Ms. Stumhofer turned to Bonnie Ortiz, a harass¬ 
ment officer at the college. Together they filed formal harassment charges 
against those responsible for the presence of the painting for creating “a 
chilling environment.” In justifying her action, Ms. Stumhofer said, “I’m 
fighting for human rights, for the ability to have a classroom where all of 
my students are comfortable.” 47 The liaison committee of the Penn State 

The Gender Wardens 


Commission on Women found in Ms. Stumhofer’s favor: Goya’s painting 
has been removed. 

It does not take much to chill an environment. Chris Robison, a grad¬ 
uate student at the University of Nebraska, had placed on his desk a small 
photograph of his wife at the beach wearing a bikini. Two of his office 
mates, both female graduate students in psychology, demanded he re¬ 
move it because “it created a hostile work environment.” 48 I talked with 
Mr. and Mrs. Robison, who told me that at first they thought the women 
were kidding. But then the offended office mates made it clear to Mr. 
Robison that “the photo conveyed a message about [his] attitude toward 
women” that they did not approve of. 

The department chair, Professor John Berman, took the women’s side, 
warning that female students who came into the office could be offended. 
Mr. Robison removed his wife’s picture from his desk, telling the local 
newspaper, “I cannot risk the very real consequences of putting the photo 
up again.” 

The charge of offending by creating a hostile or “intimidating” environ¬ 
ment is now being made with great frequency, and, almost always, those 
accused retreat, for they know they cannot depend on support from those 
in authority. Never mind that such a charge usually creates a hostile, 
intimidating, or “chilling” environment of its own or that they could have 
used less confrontational ways of dealing with an uncomfortable situation 
—such as calling the buildings and grounds department to have an un¬ 
wanted painting removed. Making a case of it puts everyone on notice 
that feminist sensibilities, no matter how precious or odd, are not to be 
trifled with. 

The “hostile environment” created by those who are hypersensitive to 
every possible offense is no longer strictly an academic phenomenon. We 
are beginning to see it in the museums, in the press (witness the Boston 
Globe with its “Women on the Verge”), and in many a workplace, where 
the employers are practicing defensive suppression of innocent behavior 
in fear that it could be considered harassment by litigious feminists. 

For the time being, however, the “chill” of rectitude is still most intense 
on the modem American campus, where cadres of well-trained zealots 
from the feminist classrooms are vengefully poised to find sexism in every 
cranny of their environment. One of the precious and fragile things that 
wither in the hostile and intolerant climate of feminist rectitude is artistic 

The attack on art by self-righteous students has begun to cause alarm 
in quarters that are usually sympathetic to gender feminist concerns. Liza 
Mundy, writing in the Fall 1993 issue of Lingua Franca, reports on the 


Who Stole Feminism? 

shocking successes that students, affronted by the art on their campuses, 
have had in censoring it. 

At the University of North Carolina, feminist students took offense at 
a sculpture called The Student Body, by Julia Balk. It consists of several 
students walking across campus—a male has his arm around a female, 
and he is reading a book; she is eating an apple. Students organized a 
Committee Against Offensive Statues and were able to persuade the chan¬ 
cellor, Paul Hardin, to move the work to an out-of-the-way place where 
no one would be forced to see it. 49 At Colgate University, a mix of 
students and faculty successfully challenged the exhibition of nude pho¬ 
tographs by one of America’s premier photographers, Lee Friedlander. At 
the University of Arizona, enough students denounced the nude self¬ 
photos of graduate student Laurie Blakeslee to cause their removal. The 
University of Pittsburgh banned a nude painting from last year’s open 
exhibit of student art at the insistence of an all-female panel, who con¬ 
sidered it obscene and sexually offensive. Anthropologist Carol Vance of 
Columbia University is unhappy about these acts of censorship. As she 
told Liza Mundy, “What may strike me as sexist might not strike you as 
sexist.” She finds fault with the administrations for caving in: “Adminis¬ 
trations that really show inertia when it comes to addressing the problem 
of sexism and so on, will snap to when someone says that a film or work 
of art is offensive. . . . It’s a relatively inexpensive way for an administra¬ 
tion to show its concern.” 50 

At the University of Michigan, where Catharine MacKinnon inspires 
censorship, the students simply removed a videotape they regarded as 
offensive from an exhibit by the artist Carol Jacobsen. Jacobsen then 
demanded that they either censor the whole thing or replace the tape. 
After meeting with MacKinnon and her fellow anti-pornography crusader 
Andrea Dworkin, the students went into another room and then “inde¬ 
pendently” asked Jacobsen to take down the entire exhibit. MacKinnon is 
adamant about the need for feminist monitoring of art and makes no 
bones about her own insight and expertise into what cannot pass muster: 
“What you need is people who see through literature like Andrea Dwor¬ 
kin, who see through law like me, to see through art and create the 
uncompromised women’s visual vocabulary.” 51 Commenting on the 
“deafening silence” of the Michigan faculty, Carol Vance suggested that 
“no one wanted to cross Catharine MacKinnon.” 

With gender monitors in a position of influence, the more creative 
writers and artists are shunted aside. The effect on novices and the unrec¬ 
ognized is especially serious. How many works are unpublished (or un¬ 
written) out of fear of offending the feminist sensibilities of funders, 

The Gender Wardens 


curators, editors, and other gender wardens inside and outside the acad¬ 
emy? How many paintings are unexhibited (or unpainted), how many 
lyrics unrecorded (or unsung)? Artists need courage, but ideological in¬ 
timidation deeply affects and inhibits creativity. 

The government could help if it understood the problem. But far from 
discouraging the cultural apparatchiks, the government may soon be 
“empowering” them by offering federal support for monitors of “gender 
equity” in every school and every workplace. Such monitors are already 
strongly entrenched in our cultural institutions, and there they will con¬ 
tinue to hold sway until their power is challenged. 

But who will challenge them? The answer to that question transcends 
the politics of liberalism and conservatism. Too often, those who find 
fault with the intolerance of the feminist ideologues are tarred as right- 
wing reactionaries. It is true that “the right” has tended to be more 
alarmed about the censoriousness of the “liberal” left. But there are rela¬ 
tively few conservatives in our educational institutions and cultural tem¬ 
ples, and it would be most unrealistic to count on them to be very 
effective in combatting gender feminism. Nor, if we judge by the sorry 
record of their faintheartedness in the academic world, should we count 
on intellectual men to engage the gender feminists in open battle. So the 
unpleasant but necessary task of confrontation falls to women who believe 
in free expression and who scorn those who would stifle it. Such women 
waged and won the battle for the suffrage and for all the basic rights 
American women now enjoy. Such women are still in the majority, but 
out of a lack of awareness of the extent of the problem or a reluctance to 
criticize their zealous sisters, they have remained silent. The price has 
been great—the ideologues have made off with the women’s movement. 

It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent of the difficulties we now 
face. The gender feminists have proved very adroit in getting financial 
support from governmental and private sources. They hold the keys to 
many bureaucratic fiefdoms, research centers, womens’ studies programs, 
tenure committees, and para-academic organizations. It is now virtually 
impossible to be appointed to high administrative office in any university 
system without having passed muster with the gender feminists. If bills 
that are now before Congress pass, there will be paid gender monitors in 
every primary and secondary school in the country and harassment offi¬ 
cers in every secondary school and college. Nor will this phenomenon be 
restricted to schools; experts on harassment will be needed to monitor 
the workplace. Needless to say, the only available “experts” are gender 
feminists whose very raison d’etre is to find more and more abuse. 

Moreover, the gender feminists will continue to do everything in their 


Who Stole Feminism? 

power to ensure that their patronage goes to women of the right con¬ 
sciousness. And, it must be acknowledged, they have certain inherent 
advantages over the mainstream. Now that it has overthrown most of the 
legal impediments to women’s rights, equity feminism is no longer gal¬ 
vanizing: it does not produce fanatics. Moderates in general are not tem¬ 
peramentally suited to activism. They tend to be reflective and 
individualistic. They do not network. They do not rally. They do not 
recruit. They do not threaten their opponents with loss of jobs or loss of 
patronage. They are not especially litigious. In short, they have so far 
been no match politically for the gender warriors. 

On the other hand, the mainstream feminists are only just becoming 
aware of the fact that the Faludis and the Steinems speak in the name of 
women but do not represent them. With the new awareness that the femi¬ 
nist leaders and theorists are patronizing them, there is a very real possi¬ 
bility that the mainstream is the tide of the not-too-distant future. I began 
the research for this book in 1989. Since then, the public has learned that 
academic feminism has been playing a leading role in promoting the 
illiberal movement known as “PC” in the nation’s colleges. Now it is 
beginning to realize that the New Feminism is socially divisive and that it 
generally lacks a constituency in the population at large. 

Classical equity feminism is very much alive in the hearts of American 
women. It is unfortunate that part of its energies must now be diverted 
to defend the women’s movement from the grave threat posed to it by the 
gender feminist ideologues. Ironically a concerted effort to deal with the 
threat may well prove revitalizing to the languishing mainstream. Getting 
out from under the stifling, condescending ministrations of the ideo¬ 
logues is a bracing cause and an exhilarating necessary step for the truly 
liberated women to take. When enough women take it, the gender femi¬ 
nists’ lack of a constituency among American women will be exposed, 
and their power structure will not survive. 

Inside the academy, it would take only a courageous few to launch the 
long-overdue critique that will puncture the intellectual affectations of 
the gender feminists. Open criticism of an academic feminism that has 
subordinated scholarship to ideology would quickly halt the pretentious 
campaign to “transform the knowledge base” and eventually open the 
doors to more representative, less doctrinaire, and more capable women 
scholars in the women’s studies programs. We should then see the end of 
“feminist classrooms” that recruit students for the more extreme wing of 
the women’s movement. 

Outside the academy individual voices have already begun to be heard 
in protest, from women as diverse as Camille Paglia, Betty Friedan, Katie 

The Gender Wardens 


Roiphe, Midge Decter, Mary Lefkowitz, Cathy Young, Erica Jong, Diane 
Ravitch, Karen Lehrman, and Wendy Kaminer, women who are not fazed 
by being denounced as traitors and backlashers. We may expect that more 
and more women will be expressing their frustration and annoyance with 
feminists who speak in their- name but do not share their values. When 
that happens, we may expect that the public will become alert to what 
the gender feminists stand for; their influence should then decline precip¬ 
itously. For some time to come, the gender monitors will still be there— 
in the schools, in the feminist centers, in the workplace—but, increas¬ 
ingly, their intrusions will not be welcome. 

The reader of this book may wonder whether there is anything I like 
about the gender feminists. I have sat among them in many a gathering 
and have occasionally found myself in relaxed agreement with them. For 
I do like the features they share with classical feminism: a concern for 
women and a determination to see them fairly treated. We very much 
need that concern and energy, but we decidedly do not need their militant 
gynocentrism and misandrism. It’s too bad that in the case of the gender 
feminists we can’t have the concern without the rest of the baggage. I 
believe, however, that once their ideology becomes unfashionable, many 
a gender feminist will quietly divest herself of the sex/gender lens through 
which she now views social reality and join the equity feminist main¬ 
stream. I do not think this will happen tomorrow, but I am convinced it 
will happen. Credos and intellectual fashions come and go but feminism 
itself—the pure and wholesome article first displayed at Seneca Falls in 
1848—is as American as apple pie, and it will stay. 



1. Gloria Steinem, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (Boston: Little, Brown, 
1992), p.222. 

2. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women (New 
York: Doubleday, 1992), pp. 180-82. 

3. Ibid., p. 207. 

4. Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Fasting Girls: The Emergence of Anorexia Nervosa as a Modern 
Disease (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 19-20. 

5. Ibid., p. 33. 

6. FDA Consumer, May 1986 and March 1992. The report is based on figures provided 
by the National Center of Health Statistics (NCHS). 

7. Ann Landers, “Women and Distorted Body Images,” Boston Globe , April 29, 1992. 

8. Wolf sent me a copy of a letter that she had written to her editors, which said, “I 
have . . . learned that the statistic, taken from Brumberg’s Fasting Girls and provided 
to her by the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association, is not accurate. Please let 
me know how to correct this error in future editions:” 

9. Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 208. 

10. Cheris Kramarae and Dale Spender, eds., The Knowledge Explosion: Generations of 
Feminist Scholarship (New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1992), 
p. 15. 



11. Women’s Studies Network (Internet:, November 4, 1992. 

12. Time, December 6, 1993, p. 10. 

13. Ms. Buel has taken a leave from the Suffolk County office to return to Harvard. She 
is now a fellow at the Bunting Institute, a feminist research center at Radcliffe College. 

14. Tracing it further, I found that Esta Soler, the executive director of the Family 
Violence Prevention Foundation, repeated Buel’s claim in a 1990 grant application. 
She had given that grant application to Time writer McDowell, who relied on it in 
making the claim about the March of Dimes. That was it: it had gone from White¬ 
head’s introductory remark, to Sarah Buel’s unpublished manuscript, to the domestic 
violence people, to the Globe and Time, then to all the rest of the newspapers. 

15. Boston Globe, January 29, 1993, p. 16. 

16. Ken Ringle, Washington Post, January 31, 1993, p. Al. 

17. Louis Harris and Associates, “Commonwealth Fund Survey on Women’s Health” 
(New York: Commonwealth Fund, 1993), p. 8. 

18. Reported in Time, March 9, 1992, p. 54. 

19. Los Angeles Times Magazine, February 2, 1992. See also In View: Issues and Insights for 
College Women 1, no. 3 (September-October 1989). 

Chapter 1: Women Under Siege 

1. Winifred Holtby, “Feminism Divided,” in Modern Feminisms, ed. Maggie Humm (New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1992), p. 42. 

2. Marilyn French, The War Against Women (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). 
Heilbrun is quoted on the jacket cover. 

3. Anne Mathews, “Rage in a Tenured Position,” New York Times Magazine, November 
8, 1992, p. 47. 

4. Ibid., p. 72. 

5. Chronicle of Higher Education, November 11, 1992, p. A18. 

6. Ibid., p. A17. 

7. Pauline Bart’s comments were made in the context of notifying women’s studies 
teachers about the New York Times story on Carolyn Heilbrun and her trials at 
Columbia. The text appears on the Women’s Studies Network (Internet:, November 9, 1992. 

8. The Heilbrun conference is on videotape. The tape is available through the women’s 
studies program at the CUNY Graduate Center. 

9. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton-Susan B. Anthony Reader, ed. Ellen Carol Dubois (Boston: 
Northeastern University Press, 1992), p. 51. 

10. Sandra Lee Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppres¬ 
sion (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 50. Bartky is relying on the work of the feminist 
anthropologist Gayle Rubin, who was among the first to speak of the “sex/gender 
system.” Here is Rubin’s definition: “While particular socio-sexual systems vary, each 
one is specific and individuals within it will have to conform to a finite set of 
possibilities. Each new generation must learn and become its sexual destiny, each 
person must be encoded with its appropriate status within the system.” From Gayle 
Rubin, “The Traffic in Women,” in Rayna Reiter, ed., Toward an Anthropology of 
Women (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975), p. 161. 

11. Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (New York: Ballantine Books, 1970). The quoted passage 
is taken from the back cover. 



12. Alison M. Jaggar, Feminist Politics and Human Nature (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and 
Littlefield, 1988), p. 148. 

13. Iris Marion Young, “Throwing like a Girl” and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and 
Social Theory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. 93. 

14. Iris Marion Young, “Humanism, Gynocentrism, and Feminist Politics,” in ibid., 
p. 73. 

15. Andrea Nye, Feminist Theory and the Philosophies of Man (New York: Routledge, 1988), 
p. 23. 

16. Holtby, “Feminism Divided,” p. 42. 

17. Catharine A. MacKinnon, New York Times, December 15, 1991, p. 1L 

18. Harvard Crimson, December 13, 1989. 

19. Virginia Held, “Feminism and Epistemology: Recent Work on the Connection be¬ 
tween Gender and Knowledge,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 14, no. 3 (Summer 
1985): 296. 

20. Ibid., p. 297. 

21. Kathryn Allen Rabuzzi, M other self: A Mythic Analysis of Motherhood (Bloomington: 
Indiana University Press, 1988) p. 1. 

22. Bartky, Femininity and Domination, p. 27. 

23. Marilyn French, The War Against Women (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 
p. 163. 

24. Janet Radcliffe Richards, The Skeptical Feminist: A Philosophical Enquiry (Middlesex, 
England: Penguin Books, 1980), p. 323. 

25. Susan McClary, “Getting Down off the Beanstalk: The Presence of Woman’s Voice in 
Janika Vandervelde’s Genesis 11” Minnesota Composers' Forum Newsletter (January 

26. Naomi Wolf, “A Woman’s Place,” New York Times, May 31, 1992. Ms. Wolfs piece 
was a shortened version of a commencement speech she had just delivered to the 
Scripps College class of 1992. 

27. Ibid. 

28. Letters to the editor, New York Times, June 12, 1992. 

29. The 1992 NWSA conference in Austin was both audiotaped and videotaped. The 
tapes are available through the NWSA office at the University of Maryland in College 
Park, Maryland. 

30. For an account of past NWSA conferences see Carol Stemhell’s review of Gloria 
Steinem’s Revolution from Within, in Women’s Review of Books 9, no. 9 (June 1992): 5. 

31. Alice Rossi, ed., The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1993), p. 413. 

32. Ibid., p. 414. 

33. Ibid. 

34. Ibid., p. 415. 

35. Ibid., p. 416. 

36. Elisabeth Griffith, In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (New York: 
Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 159. 

37. Historian Elisabeth Griffith reports that some scholars believe that it was Richard 
Hunt who came up with the idea of a women’s rights conference. See ibid., p. 52. 

38. The conference, called “Taking the Lead: Balancing the Educational Equation,” was 
cosponsored by Mills College and the American Association of University Women 
(AAUW). It took place October 23-25, 1992, at Mills College. The program is 



available through the AAUW’s Washington office. I attended the conference with my 
sister, Louise Hoff, and with journalist Barbara Rhoades Ellis. See also Ms. Ellis’s 
entertaining and insightful “Pod People Infest AAUW,” an account of the Mills con¬ 
ference, in Heterodoxy, December 1992. Ms. Ellis’s article includes my description of 
its “Perils of Feminist Teaching” workshop. 

39. David Gurevich, “Lost in Translation,” American Spectator, August 1991, pp. 28-29. 

40. Gurevich notes that he had no trouble translating these parts of Ms. Kauffman’s 
speech: “Her cliches have perfect Russian equivalents, finessed over the past seventy 

Chapter 2: Indignation, Resentment, and Collective Guilt 

1. Boston Globe, April 30, 1992, p. 29. 

2. Sandra Lee Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppres¬ 
sion (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 15. 

3. Daily Hampshire Gazette, March 18, 1992. 

4. Marilyn French, The War Against Women (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 

p. 182. 

5. Ibid. 

6. Ibid., p. 199. 

7. Diana Scully, on the Women’s Studies Network (Internet:, 
January 27, 1993. See also her book, Understanding Sexual Violence (New York: 
Routledge, 1990). 

8. Time, June 3, 1991, p. 52. 

9. Story reported in the Washington Times, May 7, 1993. 

10. Ms. magazine, September/October 1993, p. 94. Cited in Daniel Wattenberg, “Sharia 
Feminists,” in American Spectator, December 1993, p. 60. 

11. Vanity Fair, November, 1993, p. 170; quoted in ibid., from Kim Masters, Vanity Fair, 
November 1993. 

12. Wattenberg, “Sharia Feminists,” p. 62. 

13. Ruth Shalit, “Romper Room: Sexual Harassment—by Tots,” New Republic, March 29, 
1993, p. 14. 

14. Nan Stein, “Secrets in Public: Sexual Harassment in Public (and Private) Schools,” 
working paper no. 256 (Wellesley, Mass.: Wellesley College Center for Research on 
Women, 1993), p. 4. 

15. Shalit, “Romper Room,” p. 13. 

16. Lionel Tiger, Newsday, October 15, 1991. 

17. Boston Phoenix, October 11, 1991, p. 14. 

18. Ibid. 

19. Ibid., p. 21. 

20. Ibid., April 16, 1993. 

21. The full account of the Nyhan affair is to be found in ibid. See also Joe Queenan, 
“What’s New Pussy-Whipped?” in GQ, August 1993, p. 144. See also “Fighting 
Words,” The New Yorker, May 3, 1993, p. 34. 

Chapter 3: Transforming the Academy 

1. Joyce Trebilcot, ed., Mothering: Essays in Feminist Theory (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and 
Allanheld, 1984), p. vii. 



2. Copies of the Women’s Studies Constitution are available through the National Wom¬ 
en’s Studies Association, University of Maryland, College Park. 

3. Carolyn Heilbrun, “Feminist Criticism in Departments of Literature,” Academe, Sep- 
tember-October 1983, p. 14. 

Elaine Marks, Nannerl Keohane, and Elizabeth Minnich have also given enthu¬ 
siastic support to the comparison between the discoveries made in women’s studies 
and those of Copernicus and Darwin. See Elaine Marks, “Deconstructing in Women’s 
Studies to Reconstructing the Humanities,” Marilyn R. Schuster and Susan R. Van 
Dyne, eds., in Women’s Place in the Academy: Transforming the Liberal Arts Curriculum 
(Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Allanheld, 1985), p. 174. Nannerl Keohane made the 
comparison in her address “Challenges for the Future” at the June 15, 1992, confer¬ 
ence at Radcliffe College entitled “In the Eye of the Storm: Feminist Research and 
Action in the Nineties.” Elizabeth Minnich makes it as well: “What we [feminists] are 
doing is comparable to Copernicus shattering our geo-centricity, Darwin shattering 
our species-centricity. We are shattering andro-centricity, and the change is as fun¬ 
damental, as dangerous, as exciting.” Keynote address, “The Feminist Academy,” 
reprinted in Proceedings of Great Lakes Women’s Studies Association, November 1979, 


4. Gerda Lemer, quoted in Chronicle of Higher Education, September 28, 1988, p. 7. 

5. Jessie Bernard in the foreword to Angela Simeone, Academic Women (South Hadley, 
Mass.: Bergin and Garvey, 1987), pp. xii and xiii. 

6. Ms. magazine, October 1985, p. 50. 

7. Ann Ferguson, “Feminist Teaching: A Practice Developed in Undergraduate Courses,” 
Radical Teacher, April 1982, p. 28. 

8. “Access to Resources” (Towson, Md.: Towson State University, National Clearing¬ 
house for Curriculum Transformation Resources, April 1993), p. 7. 

9. Caryn McTighe Musil, The Courage to Question: Women’s Studies and Student Learning 
(Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges, 1992), p. 3. 

10. Louise Bemikow, introduction to The World Split Open: Four Centuries of Women Poets 
in England and America, 1552-1950 (New York: Random House, 1974), p. 3. 

11. Geraldine Ruthchild, “The Best Feminist Criticism Is a New Criticism,” in Feminist 
Pedagogy and the Learning Climate: Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Great Lakes Colleges 
Association Women’s Studies Conference (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Great Lakes Colleges As¬ 
sociation, 1983), p. 34. 

12. Gerda Lemer, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 
p. 224. 

13. Ibid., p.225. 

14. “Evaluating Courses for Inclusion of New Scholarship on Women” (Washington 
D.C.: Association of American Colleges, May 1988), p. 1. 

15. The AAUW Report: How Schools Shortchange Girls (Washington, D.C.: American As¬ 
sociation of University Women Educational Foundation, 1992), p. 63. 

16. Leonard C. Wood et al., America: Its People and Values (Dallas: Harcourt Brace Jova- 
novich, 1985), pp. 145, 170, 509, 701. See also Daniel Boorstin and Brooks Mather 
Kelley, A History of the United States (Lexington, Mass.: Ginn, 1986). 

17. Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Transforming Knowledge (Philadelphia: Temple Univer¬ 
sity Press, 1990), p. 133. 

18. Boorstin and Kelley, A History of the United States. Example cited in Robert Lemer, 
Althea K. Nagai, and Stanley Rothman, “Filler Feminism in High School History,” 



Academic Questions 5, no. 1 (Winter 1991-92): 34. For a frank but sympathetic 
biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, see Dorothy Herrmann, Anne Morrow Lind¬ 
bergh (New York: Penguin, 1993). 

19. Lemer, Nagai, and Rothman, “Filler Feminism in High School History,” p. 29. 

20. American Voices, ed. Carol Berkin, Alan Brinkly, et al. (Glenview, Ill.: Scott Freedman, 
1992), p. 18. 

21. Gilbert Sewall, Social Studies Review (New York: American Textbook Council, 1993), 
p. 7. 

22. Paul C. Vitz, Censorship: Evidence of Bias in Our Children’s Textbooks (Ann Arbor, 
Mich.: Servant Books, 1986). 

23. Ibid., p. 73. 

24. Diane Ravitch and Chester E. Finn, What Do Our Seventeen-Year-Olds Know? (New 
York: Harper & Row, 1987). The figures cited are taken from the appendix, 
pp. 262-77. 

25. Reported in the Boston Globe: “Top Students Get Low Scores in Civics,” April 6, 1993, 
p- 3 - 

26. “Standards for Evaluation of Instructional Materials with Respect to Social Content” 
(California State Department of Education, 1986), p. 2. 

27. Peggy Means McIntosh, “Curricular Re-Vision: The New Knowledge for a New Age,” 
in Educating the Majority: Women Challenge Tradition in Higher Education, ed. Carol 
Pearson, Donna Shavlik, and Judith Touchton (New York: Macmillan, 1989), p. 404. 
To make their point about the masculinist character of artistic and literary judgment, 
the transformationist revisionists almost always encase terms like masterpiece, genius, 
and literary canon in scare quotes. 

28. Janis C. Bell, “Teaching Art History: A Strategy for the Survival of Women’s Studies,” 
in “Looking Forward: Women’s Strategies for Survival,” Proceedings of the Eleventh 
Annual Great Lakes Colleges Association (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Great Lakes Colleges 
Association, 1985), p. 28. 

29. Ibid., p. 23. 

30. Marks, “Deconstructing in Women’s Studies,” p. 178. 

31. Quoted in Minnich, Transforming Knowledge, p. 27. 

32. Peggy McIntosh, keynote address, “Seeing Our Way Clear: Feminist Re-Vision of the 
Academy,” Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Great Lakes Colleges Association Women’s 
Studies Conference (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Great Lakes Colleges Association, 1983), 

p. 8. 

33. Boston Globe, June 30, 1991. 

34. “Transforming the Knowledge Base: A Panel Discussion at the National Network of 
Women’s Caucuses” (New York: National Council for Research on Women, 1990), 
p. 4. Minnich’s attack on the ancient Greeks reminded me of my own more traditional 
introduction to “The Greeks.” When I was in high school, my mother gave me Edith 
Hamilton’s The Greek Way. It inspired in me a great interest in philosophy and 
classical art. Today, the many pedagogues who follow the Minnich line protect high 
school girls from such books. 

35. Minnich, Transforming Knowledge, p. 113. 

36. Joyce Trebilcot, “Dyke Methods,” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 3, no. 2 
(Summer 1988): 3. 

37. “Feminist Scholarship Guidelines,” distributed by the New Jersey Project (Wayne, 
N.J.: William Paterson College, 1991). 



38. Catharine MacKinnon, “Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State,” in Signs (Sum¬ 
mer 1993): 636. 

39. Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University 
Press, 1986), p. 113. 

40. Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mat- 
tuck Tarule, Women's Ways of Knowing (New York: Basic Books, 1986), p. 104. 

41. Ibid. 

42. Ibid., p. 113. 

43. Peggy McIntosh, “Seeing Our Way Clear: Feminist Revision and the Academy,” 
Proceedings of the Eighth Annual GLCA Women’s Studies Conference (Ann Arbor, Mich.: 
Great Lakes Colleges Association, November 5-7, 1982), p. 13. 

44. Dr. McIntosh outlined her five-phase theory in a 1990 workshop for the public school 
teachers and staff in Brookline, Massachusetts, which was videotaped by the Brook¬ 
line School Department and is available through that office. 

45. Peggy McIntosh, “Interactive Phases of Curricular and Personal Re-Vision with Regard 
to Race,” working paper no. 219 (Wellesley, Mass.: Wellesley College Center for 
Research on Women, 1990), p. 6. 

46. McIntosh, working paper no. 124, p. 11. 

47. Workshop, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1990 (see note 44 above). 

48. McIntosh, working paper no. 219, p. 5. 

49. Ibid., no. 124, p. 7. 

50. Ibid., p. 10. 

51. Ibid., no. 219, p. 10. 

52. Ibid. 

53. Ibid., p. 11. 

54. Ibid., p. 6. 

55. Ibid., no. 124, p. 21. 

56. Schuster and Van Dyne, Women’s Place in the Academy, p. 26. 

57. All the quotations concerning Dean Stimpson’s “Dream Curriculum” are from Cath¬ 
arine R. Stimpson, “Is There a Core in Their Curriculum? And Is It Really Necessary?” 
Change (March-April 1988): 27-31. 

58. Ibid., p. 30. 

59. Linda Gardiner, “Can This Discipline Be Saved? Feminist Theory Challenges Main¬ 
stream Philosophy,” working paper no. 118 (Wellesley, Mass.: Wellesley College 
Center for Research on Women, 1983), p. 4. 

60. Ibid., p. 12. 

61. Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univer¬ 
sity Press, 1985), p. 174. 

62. Ibid., p. 175. 

63. Ibid., p. 173. 

64. Interview with Meg Urry of the Space Telescope and Science Institute, “CNN Head¬ 
line News,” June 14, 1993, 9:55 p.m. 

65. Sue Rosser, “Integrating the Feminist Perspective into Courses in Introductory Biol¬ 
ogy,” in Schuster and Van Dyne, Women’s Place in the Academy, p. 263. 

66. Ibid., p. 267. 

67. Harding, The Science Question in Feminism, p. 251. 

68. Margarita Levin, “Caring New World: Feminism and Science,” American Scholar 
(Winter 1988): 105. 



Chapter 4: New Epistemologies 

1. See, for example, Nancy Hartsock, “The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground 
for a Specifically Feminist Flistorical Materialism,” in Sandra ldarding and Merrill B. 
Flintikka, eds., Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, 
Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (Dordrecht, Flolland: D. Reidel, 1983), p. 284, 
cited in Feminist Epistemologies, ed. Linda Alcoff and Elizabeth Potter (New York: 
Routledge, 1993), p. 85; or Charlotte Bunch, “Not for Lesbians Only,” in Passionate 
Politics: Feminist Theory in Action (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), pp. 279-309, 
cited in Feminist Epistemologies. 

2. Cited in Feminist Epistemologies, p. 90. 

3. Virginia Field, “Feminism and Epistemology: Recent Work on the Connection be¬ 
tween Gender and Knowledge,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 14, no. 3 (Summer 
1985): 299. 

4. Susan Flaack, “Epistemological Reflections of an Old Feminist,” presented at annual 
meetings of the Eastern division of the American Philosophical Association, Washing¬ 
ton, D.C. (December 1992). Sponsored by the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, 
Bowling Green. Haack’s paper was published in Reason Papers 18 (Fall 1993): 31- 

5. Ibid., p. 33. 

6. Yolanda T. Moses, “The Challenge of Diversity,” in Education and Urban Society 22, 
no. 4 (August 1990): 404. Cited in an article by Jim Sleeper in New Republic, June 
28, 1993, p. 11. 

7. Ibid., Education and Urban Society: 409. 

8. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Motherhood,” in Alice Rossi, ed., The Feminist Papers: From 
Adams to de Beauvoir (New York: Bantam Books, 1973), pp. 399-400. 

9. Ibid. 

10. Iris Murdoch, in a private letter to me. 

11. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Flemdl, eds., Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary 
Theory and Criticism (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991), p. ix. 

12. By a familiar irony, though most Christians would object to Mary being considered a 
goddess, none of the women who organized the conference thought that Christian 
sensibilities needed to be considered. 

13. Peter Steinfels, “Beliefs,” New York Times, May 1, 1993, p. 10. 

14. Barbara Smith and Beverly Smith, “Across the Kitchen Table: A Sister-to-Sister Dia¬ 
logue,” in Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: 
Writings by Radical Women of Color (Watertown, Mass.: Persephone Press, 1981), 
p. 114. 

15. Johnnella Butler called in sick. 

16. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, “Consultant’s Report,” Ford Foundation Program on Education 
and Culture, March 1993, p. 11. 

17. “The Monday Group,” June 14, 1993. 

18. Transformations 4, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 2. 

19. The “historic” pamphlet “Transforming the Knowledge Base” can be ordered through 
the National Council for Research on Women in New York. 



Chapter 5: The Feminist Classroom 

1. Margo Culley, Arlyn Diamond, Lee Edwards, Sara Lennox, and Catherine Portuges, 
“The Politics of Nurturance,” in Gendered Subjects: The Dynamics of Feminist Teaching 
(Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985), p. 19. 

2. Carole Sheffield, “Sexual Terrorism,” in Women: A Feminist Perspective, ed. Jo Freeman 
(Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 1989, p. 4). Ms. Sheffield is professor of political 
science at William Paterson College, where she serves as co-chair of the campus 
violence project. 

3. The “model syllabus” can be found in Johnnella Butler, Sandra Coynes, Margaret 
Homans, Marlene Longenecker, and Caryn McTighe Musil, Liberal Learning and the 
Women’s Studies Major: A Report to the Professions (Washington, D.C.: Association of 
American Colleges, 1991), appendix B. 

4. Ibid., pp. 14-15. 

5. Susan S. Arpad, “The Personal Cost of the Feminist Knowledge Explosion,” in Cheris 
Kramarae and Dale Spender, eds., The Knowledge Explosion (New York: Teachers 
College Press, 1992), pp. 333-34. 

6. Karen Lehrman, “Off Course,” Mother Jones, September-October 1993, pp. 46-47. 

7. Ibid., p. 49. 

8. Joyce Trebilcot, “Dyke Methods,” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 3, no. 2 
(Summer 1988): 7. 

9. Ann Ferguson, “Feminist Teaching: A Practice Developed in Undergraduate Courses,” 
Radical Teacher (April 1982): 28. 

10. Ibid., p. 29. 

11. Marcia Bedard and Beth Hartung, “ ‘Blackboard Jungle’ Revisited,” Thought and Action 
7, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 11. 

12. Ibid., p. 9. 

13. Shawn Brown’s paper (October 8, 1992) for Political Science 111, University of 
Michigan, p. 4. 

14. Letter to Michigan Review, November 5, 1992. 

15. Dale M. Bauer, “The Other ‘F’ Word: The Feminist in the Classroom,” College English 
52, no. 4 (April 1990): 385. 

16. Ibid., p.387. 

17. Ibid., p.388. 

18. Roger Scruton, Angela Ellis-Jones, and Dennis O’Keefe, Education and Indoctrination 
(London: Sherwood Press, 1985). 

19. Marilyn R. Schuster and Susan R. Van Dyne, eds., Women’s Place in the Academy: 
Transforming the Liberal Arts Curriculum (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Allanheld, 
1985), p. 18. 

20. George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1949), p. 205. 

21. Thomas Sowell, Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas 
(New York: Free Press, 1993), p. 278. 

22. Copies of the ground rules can be obtained through the Center for Research on 
Women at Memphis State University, Memphis, Tennessee. 

23. Kali Tal’s remarks are from the Women’s Studies Network (Internet: listserv®, February 6, 1993. Her comments, and many others like it from 
other women’s studies practitioners, can be found under the file heading “Classroom 
Disclosure.” She used these rules in a course at George Mason University. 



24. Elizabeth Fay, “Anger in the Classroom: Women, Voice, and Fear,” Radical Teacher, 
Fall 1992, part 2. 

25. Ibid., p. 14. 

26. Ibid., p. 15. 

27. Ibid., p. 16. 

28. Women’s Review of Books, in its February 1990 issue, contains several articles by 
women’s studies professors analyzing the phenomenon of “student resistance.” 

29. Minnesota Daily, March 14, 1989. 

30. Ibid., April 18, 1989. 

31. Ibid., April 13, 1989. 

32. Flier printed in Vassar Spectator, November 1990, p. 18. 

33. Carol P. Christ, “Why Women Need the Goddess,” in Marilyn Pearsall, ed., Women 
and Values (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1986), p. 216. 

34. Harriet Silius, Institute for Women’s Studies, Akademi University, from Wom¬ 
en’s Studies Network (Internet:, November 20, 

35. Proceedings of the Fourth Annual GLCA Womens Studies Conference (Ann Arbor, Mich.: 
Great Lakes Colleges Association, 1978), p. 60. 

36. “Women’s Studies,” in Reports from the Fields (Washington, D.C.: Association of 
American Colleges, 1991), p. 219. 

37. Racism and Sexism: An Integrated Study, ed. Paula Rothenberg (New York: St. Martin’s 
Press, 1988). 

38. Vice President Harward’s address was reprinted in the college alumni magazine: 
Wooster 101, no. 1 (Fall 1986): 36. 

39. Schuster and Van Dyne, Women’s Place in the Academy, p. 5. 

40. For a fuller account of the defense guard episode, see the Berkshire Eagle, February 
17, 1990. 

41. Lingua Franca 1, no. 1 (Fall 1990): 22. 

42. Amanda Martin’s opinion piece appeared in the April 5, 1993, issue of the Daily 
Collegian . 

43. David Margolick, “Free Speech on Campus? It’s a Matter of Debate,” New York Times, 
September 24, 1993, p. A26. 

44. Ibid. 

45. Minnesota Daily, August 23, 1989. 

46. From Nat Hentoff, “Is This Sexual Harassment?” Village Voice, December 8, 1993, 
p. 40. 

47. Schuster and Van Dyne, Women’s Place in the Academy, p. 230. 

48. Modem Language Association Newsletter, Summer 1991, p. 21. 

49. Toni McNaron, Women’s Review of Books 9, no. 5 (February 1992): 30. 

Chapter 6: A Bureaucracy of One’s Own 

1. Peggy McIntosh, “Seeing Our Way Clear: Feminist Revision of the Academy,” in 
Proceedings of the Eighth Annual GLCA Women’s Studies Conference (Ann Arbor, Mich.: 
Great Lakes Colleges Association, 1982), p. 13. 

2. Transforming the Knowledge Base (New York: National Council for Research on 
Women, 1990), pp. 11-12. 



3. Ibid., p. 12. 

4. Betty Schmitz, Integrating Womens Studies into the Curriculum (Old Westbury, N.Y.: 
Feminist Press, 1985), p. 25. 

5. Betty Schmitz, “Integrating Scholarship by and about Women into the Curriculum” 
(Memphis, Tenn.: Memphis State University Press, 1990), pp. 18-19. 

6. Transforming the Knowledge Base, p. 13. 

7. Schmitz, Integrating Women’s Studies into the Curriculum, pp. 26-27. 

8. Ibid., p. 51. 

9. Ibid., pp. 51-52. 

10. Ibid., p. 52. 

11. Betty Schmitz, Myra Dinnerstein, and Nancy Mairs, “Initiating a Curriculum Integra¬ 
tion Project: Lessons from the Campus and the Region,” in Womens Place in the 
Academy: Transforming the Liberal Arts Curriculum, ed. Marilyn R. Schuster and Susan 
R. Van Dyne (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Allanheld, 1985), p. 121. 

12. Herman Belz, “Transforming the Curriculum,” Faculty Voice, University of Maryland, 
October 1988, p. 4. 

13. Transforming the Knowledge Base, p. 12. 

14. The Status of Women in Academe: System Summary, Tennessee Board of Regents, 1990, 

p. 26. 

15. “Evaluating Courses for Inclusion of Scholarship by and about Women: A Report to 
the Advisory Committee for Curricular Transformation,” Middle Tennessee State 
University, 1992. 

16. “Women’s Studies,” in Reports from the Fields (Washington, D.C.: Association of 
American Colleges, 1991), pp. 211-12. 

17. Chronicle of Higher Education, March 17, 1993, p. A18. 

18. Donna Shavlik, Judith Touchton, and Carol Pearson, “The New Agenda of Women 
for Higher Education on Education,” in Educating the Majority: Women Challenge 
Tradition in Higher Education (New York: Macmillan, 1989), p. 448. 

19. Mount Holyoke College catalogs, 1989-92. 

20. Chronicle of Higher Education, December 7, 1988, p. A15. 

21. Jim Hawkins, California Scholar, Winter 1992-93, p. 10. 

22. Ibid., pp. 10-12. 

23. From memo sent to University of Minnesota faculty by Patricia Mullen, director of 
the Office of Equal Opportunity, and Becky Kroll, director of the Minnesota Women’s 
Center, August 30, 1993. 

24. Chronicle of Higher Education, January 17, 1990, p. A15. 

25. Removing Bias: Guidelines for Student-Faculty Communication (Annandale, Va.: 
Speech Communication Association, 1983), p. 45. The guide was developed with 
support from the Women’s Educational Equity Act Program of the Department of 

26. Caryn McTighe Musil, ed.. The Courage to Question: Women’s Studies and Student 
Learning (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges, 1992), p. 2. 

27. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, “Consultant’s Report,” Ford Foundation Program on Education 
and Culture, March 1992, pp. 10-11. 

28. Joan Didion, “The Women’s Movement,” in The White Album (New York: Simon <Sr 
Schuster, 1979), p. 110. 

29. Susan Sontag, “Feminism and Fascism: An Exchange,” New York Review of Books, 
March 20, 1975, p. 31. 



30. Doris Lessing, “Women’s Quests,” lecture delivered February 4, 1991. Reprinted in 
Partisan Review 59, no. 2 (1992): 190, 192. 

31. Teresa Ebert, “The Politics of the Outrageous,” Women's Review oj Books, October 
1991, p. 12. 

32. New York, March 4, 1991, p. 30. 

33. PMLA (January 1989): 78. 

34. Paula Goldsmid, panel discussion, “Toward a Feminist Transformation of the Acad¬ 
emy” (Chicago: Great Lakes Colleges Association, November 2-4, 1979), p. 54. 

35. Paula Rothenberg, “Teaching ‘Racism and Sexism in a Changing America,’ ” Radical 
Teacher, November 1984, p. 2. 

Chapter 7: The Self-Esteem Study 

1. New York Times, January 9, 1991, p. B6. 

2. Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1991, p. 1. 

3. Boston Globe, January 20, 1991, p. A21. 

4. Testimony of Rep. Patricia Schroeder on the Gender Equity in Education Act before 
the Flouse Education and Labor Committee Subcommittee on Elementary, Second¬ 
ary, and Vocational Education, April 21, 1993. 

5. “Summary: Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America” (Washington, D.C.: Amer¬ 
ican Association of University Women, 1991), p. 8. 

6. Looking more closely at the findings, I saw that in many areas girls were more 
ambitious than the boys: more high school girls than boys aspire to be high-level 
professionals and business executives (42 percent of girls vs. 27 percent of boys). 
The number-one career goal of high school girls is lawyer: 71 percent would like to 
be lawyers, and 53 percent think they will achieve this goal. For boys, the most 
popular career ambition is sports star: 70 percent aspire to it, and 49 percent think 
they will actually succeed. See the AAUW/Greenberg-Lake Full Data Report (Wash¬ 
ington, D.C.: Greenberg-Lake, 1990), pp. 12-13. 

7. Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America, video distributed by the American Asso¬ 
ciation of University Women, Washington, D.C., 1991. 

8. New York Times Magazine, January 7, 1990, p. 23. 

9. “A Call to Action: Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America” (Washington, D.C.: 
American Association of University Women, 1991), p. 5. 

10. Ibid., p. 5. 

11. The original impetus for the self-esteem movement in the schools seems to come 
from studies done in the 1940s by Kenneth and Mamie Clark, showing that black 
children (ages three and seven) preferred white dolls. This was taken as a measure of 
their low self-esteem. The Clark studies have been challenged many times over. 
Adolescent psychologist Susan Flarter gives seven references to recent books and 
articles disputing the Clark findings. Susan Harter, “Self-Identity and Development,” 
in S. Shirley Feldman and Glen R. Elliott, eds., At the Threshold (Cambridge, Mass.: 
Harvard University Press, 1990), p. 369. Gloria Steinem is apparently unaware of the 
more recent findings and still cites the doll studies as authoritative. See Steinem, 
Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (Boston: Little, Brown, 1992), p. 221. 

12. “Hey, I’m Terrific,” Newsweek, February 17, 1992. 

13. “Promoting Self-Esteem in Young Women: A Manual for Teachers” (Albany, N.Y.: 
State Education Department, 1989), p. 3. 



14. “A Call to Action,” p. 24. 

15. Ibid., p. 26. 

16. Ibid., pp. 25-26. 

17. Philip Robson, M.D., “Improving Self-Esteem,” Harvard Medical School Mental Health 
Letter, June 1990, p. 3. 

18. Ibid. 

19. Science News, May 15, 1993, p. 308. 

20. Harter, “Self-Identity and Development,” p. 365. 

21. Bruce Bower, “Tracking Teen Self-Esteem,” Science News, March 23, 1991, p. 184. 

22. His research is described in ibid., p. 186. I sent away for his studies, as well as the 
others mentioned in this article. They all appeared to be well designed and free of 

23. “A Call to Action,” p. 10. 

24. Roberta Simmons, quoted in Bower, “Tracking Teen Self-Esteem,” p. 186. 

25. Ibid., p. 185. 

26. Ibid. 

27. Ibid., p. 186. 

28. Anne C. Petersen et al., “Depression in Adolescence,” American Psychologist, February 
1993, p. 155. 

29. Bower, “Tracking Teen Self-Esteem,” p. 186. 

30. “A Call to Action,” p. 10. The report’s arithmetic is slightly off. The increase should 
be 9-17 points, not 7-17. 

31. NEA Today, March 1991, p. 29. 

32. Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1991 (story written by Mary Sue Mohnke). 

33. Steinem, Revolution from Within, p. 121. 

34. The American Woman, 1992-93: A Status Report, ed. Paula Ries and Anne Stone (New 
York: Norton, 1992). 

35. Blurb on the back cover of ibid. 

36. Ibid., pp. 73-76. 

37. Steinem’s reversed figures made it into the paperback edition. 

38. The AAUW Report: How Schools Shortchange Girls (commonly referred to as the 
“Wellesley Report”) (Washington, D.C.: AAUW Educational Foundation, 1992), 

p. 12. 

39. “A Call to Action,” p. 26. 

40. The figures are from the Greenberg-Lake Full Data Report, “Expectations and Aspi¬ 
rations: Gender Roles and Self-Esteem” (Washington, D.C.: American Association of 
University Women, 1990). 

41. Several of the questions on the survey are variants of the “Rosenberg Self-Esteem 
Scale”(RSE), which gives respondents the choices “strongly agree,” “agree,” “dis¬ 
agree,” or “strongly disagree” to statements like “On the whole, I am satisfied with 
myself’ and “I feel that I have a number of good qualities.” The Rosenberg scale 
counts only the “disagree” and “strongly disagree” answers as indicative of low self¬ 
esteem responses. See Murray Rosenberg, Conceiving the Self (New York: Basic Books, 

42. “Expectations and Aspirations,” p. 21. 

43. Ibid., p. 13. 

44. See the Digest of Education Statistics (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Educa¬ 
tion, 1993), p. 273. 



45. “Expectations and Aspirations,” p. 22. 

46. “A Call to Action,” p. 27. 

47. Ibid., p. 4. 

48. Harold W. Stevenson, “Children Deserve Better than Phony Self-Esteem,” Education 
Digest, December 1992, pp. 12-13. See also Harold W. Stevenson and James W. 
Stigler, The Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from 
Japanese and Chinese Education (New York: Summit Books, 1992). 

49. New York Times, January 9, 1991. 

50. Lawrence J. Walker, “Sex Differences in the Development of Moral Reasoning: A 
Critical Review,” Child Development 55 (1984): 681. 

51. Anne Colby and William Damon, “Listening to a Different Voice: A Review of Gilli- 
gan’s In a Different Voice,” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 29, no. 4 (October 1983): 475. 

52. Carol Tavris, The Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior 
Sex, or the Opposite Sex (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 85. 

53. Ibid., p. 63. See also Katha Pollitt’s “Marooned on Gilligan’s Island: Are Women 
Morally Superior to Men?” The Nation, December 28, 1992. 

54. Faye J. Crosby, Juggling: The Unexpected Advantages of Balancing Career and Home for 
Women and Their Families (New York: Free Press, 1991), p. 124. This is the same 
Faye Crosby at that unhappy Mills College conference where the angry Rita attacked 
Raphael (see chapter 1). 

55. Martha T. Mednick, “On the Politics of Psychological Constructs: Stop the Bandwa¬ 
gon, I Want to Get Off American Psychologist, August 1989, p. 1120. 

56. Lyn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan, Meeting at the Crossroads: Womens Psychology 
and Girls' Development (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992). 

57. Christopher Lasch, “Gilligan’s Island,” New Republic, December 7, 1992, p. 38. 

58. Carolyn G. Heilbrun, “How Girls Become Wimps,” New York Times Book Review, 
October 4, 1992, p. 13. 

59. “Summary: Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America,” p. 17 

60. “Teacher’s Guide: Take Our Daughters to Work” (New York: Ms. Foundation for 
Women, 1993), p. 3. 

61. Judy Mann, “My Daughter, His Griddle,” Washington Post, April 23, 1993. 

62. Parade, May 17, 1992, p. 20. 

63. San Francisco Chronicle, April 16, 1993. 

64. “Teacher’s Guide: Take Our Daughters to Work,” p. 12. 

65. Ibid. 

Chapter 8: The Wellesley Report: A Gender at Risk 

1. “A Call to Action: Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America” (Washington, D.C.: 
American Association of University Women, 1991), p. 5. 

2. The AAUW Report: How Schools Shortchange Girls (commonly referred to as the 
“Wellesley Report”) (Washington, D.C.: AAUW Educational Foundation, 1992), 
p. vi. I am referring to the second AAUW study as the Wellesley Report to distinguish 
it from the first AAUW study on self-esteem. 

3. San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 1992, p. A22. 

4. Los Angeles Times, February 22, 1992, p. B6. 

5. Richard N. Ostling, “Is School Unfair to Girls?” Time, February 24, 1992, p. 62. 

6. Boston Globe, February 2, 1992. 



7. New York Times , February 12, 1992. 

8. The Gender Equity in Education Act (H.R. 1793) is made up of nine separate bills. 
Two of them seem reasonable and free of gender feminist ideology (a child abuse 
prevention program and a nutrition and family counseling program). But the other 
seven appear to be based on questionable gender feminist advocacy research. 

9. Boston Globe , September 16, 1993, p. 5. 

10. Executive summary, “Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Elementary, 
Secondary, and Vocational Education,” April 21, 1993, p. 5. 

11. Women’s Research Network News (New York: National Council for Research on 
Women, 1993), p. 11. 

12. The Condition of Education (Washington D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 
U.S. Department of Education, 1991), p. 44. 

13. The Condition of Education , 1992, pp. 42-49. 

14. Digest of Education Statistics (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 1992), 
p. 136. 

15. Wellesley Report, p. 45. 

16. Boston Globe , January 24, 1994. The UCLA Center does a yearly study of the attitudes 
and goals of college freshmen. The 1993 results are based on a survey of approxi¬ 
mately 250,000 students from 475 colleges and universities. 

17. The Condition of Education , 1985, p. 66. 

18. Ibid., pp. 50, 52. 

19. Ibid., p. 206. 

20. Digest of Education Statistics (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statis¬ 
tics, U.S. Department of Education, 1992), p. 137. 

21. Wellesley Report, p. 79. 

22. Monthly Vital Statistics Report , “Advance Report of Final Mortality Statistics, 1990” 
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, January 1993), 
p. 27. 

23. The quote is from an AAUW brochure called “Executive Summary: How Schools 
Shortchange Girls,” p. 2; the information is taken from the Wellesley Report, p. 68. 

24. Testimony of Rep. Patricia Schroeder on the Gender Equity in Education Act before 
the House Education and Labor Committee Subcommittee on Elementary, Second¬ 
ary, and Vocational Education, April 21, 1993. 

25. Wellesley Report, p. 68. 

26. Myra Sadker and David Sadker, “Sexism in the Classroom: From Grade School to 
Graduate School,” Phi Delta Kappan, March 1986, p. 514. 

27. International Assessment of Educational Progress (LAEP), (Princeton, N.J.: Educa¬ 
tional Testing Service, 1992), p. 145. The underperformance of American boys vis a 
vis foreign girls is consistent with the 1988 IAEP, which showed the Korean girls 
similarly outperforming American boys, LAEP (Princeton, N.J.: Educational Testing 
Service 1989), figure 1.3. 

28. IAEP, 1992, p. 21. 

29. Sadker and Sadker, “Sexism in the Classroom,” pp. 512-13. 

30. David Sadker and Myra Sadker, “Is the O.K. Classroom O.K.?” Phi Delta Kappan, 
January 1985, p. 360. 

31. Ibid., p.361. 

32. Wellesley Report, p. 68, and Review of Research in Education 17 (1991): 297-98. 



33. David Sadker, Myra Sadker, and Dawn Thomas, “Sex Equity and Special Education,” 
The Pointer 26, no. 1 (1981): 36. 

34. Myra Sadker, David Sadker, and Susan Klein, “The Issue of Gender in Elementary 
and Secondary Education” in ed. Gerald Grant, Review of Research in Education 17, 
(1991): 297-98. 

35. Myra Sadker and David Sadker, Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls 
(New York: Scribners, 1994), p. 10. 

36. Myra Sadker and David Sadker, Year Three: Final Report, Promoting the Effectiveness in 
Classroom Instruction (Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Education, Department 
of Education, March 1984), contract no. 400-80-0033, p. 2. 

37. Marlaine E. Lockheed, “A Study of Sex Equity in Classroom Interaction” (Washing¬ 
ton, D.C.: National Institute of Education, 1984). 

38. Lisa A. Serbin, K. Daniel O’Leary, Ronald N. Kent, and Illene J. Tonick, “A Compar¬ 
ison of Teacher Response to the Preacademic and Problem Behavior of Boys and 
Girls,” Child Development , 1973, p. 803. 

39. M. Gail Jones, “Gender Bias in Classroom Interactions,” Contemporary Education 60, 
no. 4 (Summer 1989). 

40. K. Tobin and P. Garnett, “Gender-Related Differences in Science Activities,” Science 
Education 71, no. 1 (1987): 91-103. 

41. Jones, “Gender Bias in Classroom Interactions,” p. 22. 

42. Wellesley Report, p. 70. 

43. Testimony submitted to the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and 
Vocational Education, April 21, 1993, by Anne L. Bryant, p. 2. 

44. Ibid, p. 2. 

45. From summary of Gender Equity in Education Act (H.R. 1793) distributed by the 
Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues (1993). 

46. The program was aired on January 1, 1993. 

47. The article appears in Educational Leadership 46, no. 6 (1989): 44-47. 

48. The transcript of the April 7, 1992, “Dateline” documentary (called “Failing at Fair¬ 
ness”) is available through Burrelle’s Information Services, Livingston, New Jersey. 
The segment was repeated on April 27, 1993. 

49. “Dateline,” April 7, 1992, p. 12. 

50. “Dateline,” April 27, 1993, p. 13. 

51. Wellesley Report, p. iv. 

52. Ibid., p. 65. 

53. Ibid. 

54. The McIntosh video was made available to me by the Brookline School Department. 

55. Robert Costrell, “The Mother of All Curriculums,” Brookline Citizen, March 15, 1991, 
p. 7. 

56. From The Science of Rights (1796), reprinted in Jane English, Sex Equality (Englewood 
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1977), p. 53. 

57. John Leo, “Sexism in the Schoolhouse,” U.S. News & World Report, March 9, 1992. 

58. “College-Bound Seniors: 1992 Profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers” (Prince¬ 
ton, N.J.: Educational Testing Service, 1992), p. iii. 

59. Ibid., p. iv. 

60. Wellesley Report, p. 56. 

61. Fortune, March 23, 1992, p. 132. 



62. R. McCormack and M. McLeod, “Gender Bias in the Prediction of College Course 
Performance,” Journal of Education Measurement 25, no. 4 (1988): 330. 

63. Fortune, May 18, 1992, p. 43. 

64. Letters from readers, Commentary, October 1992, p. 2. 

65. Wellesley Report, p. 86. 

66. Ibid., p. 87. 

67. Barry Cipra, “An Awesome Look at Japan’s Math SAT,” Science, January 1, 1993, 

p. 22. 

68. Ibid. 

69. Ibid. 

70. Ibid. 

71. Science, March 2, 1990, p. 1025. 

72. Several other reports say much the same thing. See, for example, Everybody Counts: 
A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education (Washington, D.C.: 
National Academy Press, 1989). According to this report: 

Average students in other countries often learn as much mathematics as the best 
students learn in the United States. Data from the Second International Mathe¬ 
matics Study show that the performance of the top 5 percent of U.S. students is 
matched by the top 50 percent of students in Japan. Our very best students—the 
top 1 percent—score lowest of the top 1 percent in all participating countries. 

73. Harold W. Stevenson, Chuansheng Chen, and Shin-Ying Lee, “Mathematics Achieve¬ 
ment of Taiwanese, Japanese, and American Children: Ten Years Later,” Science, 
January 1, 1993, p. 54. 

74. International Assessment of Mathematics and Science, 1992. 

75. Some education watchers have tried to downplay the poor performance of American 
students on international tests. For example, one study, mentioned by Time magazine 
(October 25, 1993, p. 20), allegedly showed that the top 50 percent of American 
eighth-graders were performing just as well as their Japanese counterparts. What 
Time failed to mention is that the study showed parity only in the area of arithmetic. 
Our children were way behind in algebra, measurement, and geometry. Unfortu¬ 
nately, arithmetic is only one branch of mathematics needed to compete in a global 
economy. The downplayers do us no service by making light of the learning gap. 

76. Education Digest, April 1992, p. 59. 

77. The results were published in a booklet, “Secrets in Public: Sexual Harassment in 
Our Schools” (1993), distributed by the Wellesley College Center for Research on 
Women and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. 

78. Nan Stein, “School Harassment—An Update,” Education Week, November 4, 1992, 
p. 37. 

79. Boston Globe, March 24, 1993, p. 1. 

80. Norman Bradbum, director of the National Opinion Research Center at the Univer¬ 
sity of Chicago, coined the acronym SLOPS. It actually stands for “self-selected 
listener opinion polls,” but what he says about SLOPS applies equally well to maga¬ 
zine polls. See “Numbers from Nowhere: The Hoax of the Call-In Polls,” by Richard 
Morin, Washington Post, February 9, 1992. 

81. Boston Globe, March 24, 1993, p. 18. 



82. “Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America’s Schools” 
(Washington, D.C.: American Association of University Women, 1993), pp. 7-10. 

83. Boston Globe, June 2, 1993, p. 1. 

84. According to the 1992 Digest of Educational Statistics, p. 142, 10.6 percent of male 
and 7.1 percent of female eighth-graders cut classes “at least sometimes”; and 89.4 
percent of boys and 92.9 percent of girls say they do it “never or almost never.” 

85. “Sex and School Debating Harassment,” Boston Globe, June 6, 1993, p. 15. 

86. ABC “Lifetime Magazine,” aired January 2, 1994. 

Chapter 9: Noble Lies 

1. Gloria Steinem, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (Boston: Little, Brown, 
1992), pp. 259-61. 

2. A brief account of the hoax is also to be found in the preface. 

3. Ken Ringle, “Wife-Beating Claims Called Out of Bounds,” Washington Post, January 
31, 1993, p. Al. 

4. Reported in Jean Cobb, “A Super Bowl-Battered Women Link?” American Journalism 
Review, May 1993, p. 35. 

5. Boston Globe, January 29, 1993, p. 13. 

6. Quoted in “Football’s Day of Dread,” Wall Street Journal, February 5, 1993, p. A10. 

7. Ibid. 

8. Ringle, “Wife-Beating Claims.” 

9. Ibid. 

10. Bob Hohler, “Super Bowl Gaffe,” Boston Globe, February 2, 1993, p. 17. 

11. Ringle, “Wife-Beating Claims.” 

12. This quotation from Lenore Walker was in Hohler’s original story for the Globe 
(February 2, 1993); but it was edited out for space purposes when the article ran. He 
gave me permission to use it. 

13. Donna Jackson, How to Make the World a Better Place for Women in Five Minutes a Day 
(New York: Hyperion, 1992), p. 62. Ms. Jackson is editor-at-large for New Woman 

14. “Female Victims of Violent Crime,” by Caroline Wolf Harlow (Washington, D.C.: 
U.S. Department of Justice, 1991), p. 1. 

15. Murray Straus, Richard Gelles, and Suzanne Steinmetz, Behind Closed Doors: Violence 
in the American Family (New York: Anchor Books, 1980). 

16. Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 1991, p. 294. 

17. Senator Joseph Biden, chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, Violence Against 
Women: A Week in the Life of America (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992), p. 3. 

18. Cheris Kramarae and Paula A. Treichler, eds., A Feminist Dictionary (London: Pandora 
Press, 1985), p. 66. 

19. Fundraising brochure sent out by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 
Washington, D.C., 1993. The headline of the brochure is “Every 15 Seconds a 
Woman Is Battered in This Country.” That would add up to a total of 2.1 million 

20. Poster, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, advertising lecture appearance of Gail 
Dines, October 13, 1992: “Images of Violence Against Women.” 

21. Marilyn French also gives this figure, “In the United States, a man beats a woman 



every twelve seconds,” The War Against Women (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 
p. 187. 

22. The Clothesline Project is a traveling exhibit on domestic violence. It was on display 
at Johns Hopkins University on October 22, 1993. They did sound a gong at ten- 
second intervals from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

23. BrotherPeace is a men’s antiviolence group in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The figures are 
from their fact sheet, called “Statistics for Men.” 

24. Gelles and Straus found that two-thirds of teenagers physically attack a sister or 
brother at least once in the course of a year, and in more than one-third of these 
cases, the attack involves severe forms of violence such as kicking, punching, biting, 
choking, and attacking with knives and guns. “These incredible rates of intrafamily 
violence by teenagers make the high rates of violence by their parents seem modest 
by comparison,” in Richard Gelles and Murray Straus, Physical Violence in American 
Families (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1990), p. 107. 

25. Ibid., p. 162. 

26. Ibid., chap. 5. 

27. The population is aging. Men and women marry at a later age and have fewer 
children. Such changes might explain a drop in the percentage of women who are 
abused. See Gelles and Straus, Intimate Violence: The Causes and Consequences of Abuse 
in the American Family (New York: Touchstone, 1989), pp. Ill and 112. 

28. Gelles and Straus, Physical Violence in American Families, p. 285. 

29. Commonwealth Fund, survey of women’s health (New York: Commonwealth Fund, 
July 14, 1993), p. 8. 

30. Ibid. Clippings from newspapers around the country are included in the survey 

31. This is consistent with Gelles and Straus’s figure of less than 1 percent for pathological 
abuse. The Commonwealth sample had a margin of error of 2 percent either way. 
There could be other explanations: as Gelles and Straus say, the women who are 
most brutally and dangerously abused would probably be afraid to talk about it. But 
if there are several million out there, surely the Harris poll would have found at least 

32. Incidentally, rape crisis feminist researchers like Diana Russell, author of Rape in 
Marriage, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), have declared an epidemic 
of marital rape. But when the Harris poll asked, “In the past year, did your partner 
ever try to, or force you to, have sexual relations by using physical force, or not?” 100 
percent of the more than 2,500 respondents said “not.” Here again one may be sure 
that marital rape is out there, but this poll suggests it’s rarer than Russell says. Using 
Russell as their source, the feminist compendium “WAC Stats: The Facts About 
Women” (New York: Women’s Action Coalition, 1993) says that “more than one in 
every seven women who have ever been married have been raped in marriage” 
(p. 49). 

33. Bias reappears in another Harris/Commonwealth finding that 40 percent of American 
women are severely depressed. As it happened, Harris and Associates had appointed 
Lois Hoeffler, a gender feminist advocate, as principal investigator in charge of the 
survey of women’s health. For an account of her views and her participation in a poll 
that resulted in sensational and depressing conclusions, see chapter 11. 

34. Andrew Klein, “Spousal/Partner Assault: A Protocol for the Sentencing and Supervi¬ 
sion of Offenders” (Quincy, Mass.: Quincy Court, 1993), p. 5. 



35. Ibid., p. 7. 

36. See, for example, Kerry Lobel, ed., Naming the Violence: Speaking Out about Lesbian 
Violence (Seattle, Wash.: Seal Press, 1986). 

37. Claire Renzetti, Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships (Newbury Park, 
Calif.: Sage Press, 1992). Claudia Card, “Lesbian Battering,” in the American Philo¬ 
sophical Association’s Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, November 1988, p. 3. 

38. Renzetti, Violent Betrayal, p. 115. 

39. Gelles and Straus, in Physical Violence in American Families, p. 11. 

40. M irabella, November 1993, p. 78. In its June 1993 issue, M irabella did its own SLOP 
survey on women’s health and found that 31 percent of their respondents were beaten 
by their husbands or boyfriends. Eighteen percent were beaten by more than one 
person. The survey was cosponsored by the Center for Women’s Policy Studies. 

41. Journal of the American Medical Association, June 22-29, 1984. 

42. Ibid., p. 3260. 

43. According to the authors, “The study did not find a statistically significant difference 
between the number of male and female domestic violence victims, although a greater 
proportion of the victims were female (62%).” Ibid., p. 3263. 

44. Stark is an associate professor of public administration at Rutgers University in 
Newark, New Jersey. Flitcraft is an associate professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai 
Hospital/University of Connecticut Health Center’s Outpatient Services in Hartford, 
Connecticut. They run the Domestic Violence Training Project for Health Profession¬ 
als in New Haven. 

45. Evan Stark and Anne Flitcraft, “Spouse Abuse” (October 1985), working paper edited 
by the Violence Epidemiology Branch, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta. Cited in 
“Violence Against Women” fact sheet from the Center for Women’s Policy Center, 
Washington, D.C., 1993. 

46. Evan Stark, Anne Flitcraft, and William Frazier, “Medicine and Patriarchal Violence,” 
International Journal of Health Services 9, no. 3 (1979): 485. 

47. Ibid., pp. 487-88. 

48. Ibid., p.482. 

49. Carole Sheffield, “Sexual Terrorism,” in Jo Freeman, ed., Women: A Feminist Perspec¬ 
tive (Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield Publishing, 1989), p. 7. 

50. “Sonya Live,” CNN, May 26, 1993. 

51. Other references to the rule of thumb include: 

Until the 19th Century, there was a charming little rule of thumb that applied to 
family life. A man was allowed to beat his wife as long as the stick he used was 
no wider than a thumb. (Ellen Goodman, Washington Post, April 19, 1983) 

English Common Law, from which our own laws are derived, allowed a man to 
beat his “wayward” wife as long as the switch he used was not thicker than the 
size of his thumb. A female caseworker in Cleveland says she never uses the term 
“rule of thumb” because of what it traditionally implies. (UPS, November 9, 1986) 

Today’s cultures have strong historical, religious, and legal legacies that reinforce 
the legitimacy of wife-beating. Under English common law, for example, a hus¬ 
band had the legal right to discipline his wife—subject to a “rule of thumb” that 
barred him from using a stick broader than his thumb. Judicial decisions in 



England and the United States upheld this right until well into the 19th century. 
(Washington Post, April 9, 1989) 

In English common law, a man was considered to have a right to “physically 
chastise an errant wife.” What passed for restraint was the notorious “rule of 
thumb” which stated that the stick he beat her with could not exceed the width 
of the thumb. (Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1989, p. 1) 

Patricia Ireland said she learned the rule of thumb which, under English common 
law, allowed a man to beat his wife as long as he used a stick no thicker than his 
thumb. (Orlando Sentinel, December, 1991) 

In state courts across the country, wife beating was legal until 1890. There was a 
“rule of thumb,” by which courts had stated a man might beat his wife with a 
switch no thicker than his thumb. (Chicago Tribune, March 18, 1990) 

52. Women’s Studies Network (Internet:, May 11, 1993. Many 
women’s studies scholars know very well that the “rule of thumb” story is a myth. 
They talk about it freely on their network; but you will never see them correcting the 
textbooks or the news stories. 

53. Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (New York: W. E. Dean, 
1836), vol. 1, p. 36. 

54. Elizabeth Pleck, “Wife Beating in Nineteenth-Century America,” Victimology: An In¬ 
ternational Journal 4 (1979): 71. 

55. Ibid., pp. 60-61. 

56. Ibid. 

57. Elizabeth Pleck, Domestic Tyranny (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 
p. 110. Pleck makes the interesting point that modem attitudes to wife battering are 
not that different from those in the nineteenth century—wife beaters are despised, 
and the public feels vindictive toward them. What has changed is that in the nine¬ 
teenth century the punishment was more informal. The batterers were beaten up, 
whipped, and publicly shamed. Today, it is a matter for the courts: the punishment 
is often a restraining order, counseling, a suspended sentence, or a severe lecture 
from a disapproving judge or police officer. One advantage of the old system is that 
the batterer’s punishment did not depend on the victim turning him in. As Pleck 
says, “Third parties were watching a husband’s behavior and reporting his misdeed 
to a policing group.” The sanctions such as whipping, shunning, and public shaming 
may have been the more powerful deterrents. See Pleck, “Wife Beating in Nineteenth- 
Century America,” p. 71. 

58. Bradley v. State, Walker 156, Miss. 1824; State v. Oliver, 70 N.C. 61, 1874. 

59. See Pleck, “Wife Beating in Nineteenth-Century America,” p. 63. 

60. In 1974 an article by sociologist Robert Calvert made reference to the North Carolina 
and Mississippi judges. It was published in an important anthology on domestic 
battery edited by Murray Straus and Suzanne Steinmetz, Violence in the Family (To¬ 
ronto: Dodd, Mead, 1975), p. 88. Martin may have learned about the two judges 

61. Del Martin, Battered Wives (Volcano, Calif.: Volcano Press, 1976), p. 31. 

62. Terry Davidson, “Wife Beating: A Recurring Phenomenon Throughout History,” 



in Maria Roy, ed., Battered Women (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977), 

p. 18. 

63. Ibid., p. 19. 

64. “Under the Rule of Thumb: Battered Women and the Administration of Justice: A 
Report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights,” January 1982, p. 2. 

65. Ibid. 

66. Time, January 18, 1993, p. 41. 

Chapter 10: Rape Research 

1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States: Uniform Crime Reports 
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 1990). 

2. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States 1990, (Washington, D.C.: 
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992), p. 184. See also Caroline Wolf Harlow, 
Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Female Victims of Violent Crime” (Washington, D.C., 
U.S. Department of Justice, 1991), p. 7. 

3. Louis Harris and Associates, “Commonwealth Fund Survey of Women’s Health” 
(New York: Commonwealth Fund, 1993), p. 9. What the report says is that “within 
the last five years, 2 percent of women (1.9 million) were raped.” 

4. “Rape in America: A Report to the Nation” (Charleston, S.C.: Crime Victims Research 
and Treatment Center, 1992). 

5. Catharine MacKinnon, “Sexuality, Pornography, and Method,” Ethics 99 Qanuary 
1989): 331. 

6. Mary Koss and Cheryl Oros, “Sexual Experiences Survey: A Research Instrument 
Investigating Sexual Aggression and Victimization,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical 
Psychology 50, no. 3 (1982): 455. 

7. Nara Schoenberg and Sam Roe, “The Making of an Epidemic,” Blade, October 10, 
1993, special report, p. 4. 

8. The total sample was 6,159, or whom 3,187 were females. See Mary Koss, “Hidden 
Rape: Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Students in Higher 
Education,” in Ann Wolbert Burgess, ed., Rape and Sexual Assault, vol. 2 (New York: 
Garland Publishing, 1988), p. 8. 

9. Ibid., p. 10. 

10. Ibid., p. 16. 

11. Mary Koss, Thomas Dinero, and Cynthia Seibel, “Stranger and Acquaintance Rape,” 
Psychology of Women Quarterly 12 (1988): 12. See also Neil Gilbert, “Examining the 
Facts: Advocacy Research Overstates the Incidence of Date and Acquaintance Rape,” 
in Current Controversies in Family Violence, ed. Richard Gelles and Donileen Loseke 
(Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1993), pp. 120-32. 

12. The passage is from Robin Warshaw, in her book I Never Called It Rape (New York: 
HarperPerennial, 1988), p. 2, published by the Ms. Foundation and with an after¬ 
word by Mary Koss. The book summarizes the findings of the rape study. 

13. Newsweek, October 25, 1993. 

14. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women (New 
York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 166. 

15. At the University of Minnesota, for example, new students receive a booklet called 
“Sexual Exploitation on Campus.” The booklet informs them that according to “one 



study [left unnamed] 20 to 25 percent of all college women have experienced rape 
or attempted rape.” 

16. The Violence Against Women Act of 1993 was introduced to the Senate by Joseph 
Biden on January 21, 1993. It is sometimes referred to as the “Biden Bill.” It is now 
making its way through the various congressional committees. Congressman Ramstad 
told the Minneapolis Star Tribune (June 19, 1991), “Studies show that as many as 
one in four women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape during her college 
career.” Ramstad adds, “This may only be the tip of the iceberg, for 90 percent of all 
rapes are believed to go unreported.” 

17. Gilbert, “Examining the Facts,” pp. 120-32. 

18. Cited in Koss, “Hidden Rape,” p. 9. 

19. Blade, special report, p. 5. 

20. Ibid. 

21. Koss herself calculated the new “one in nine” figure for the Blade, p. 5. 

22. Cathy Young, Washington Post (National Weekly Edition), July 29, 1992, 
p. 25. 

23. Katha Pollitt, “Not Just Bad Sex,” New Yorker, October 4, 1993, p. 222. 

24. Koss, “Hidden Rape,” p. 16. 

25. Blade, p. 5. The Blade reporters explain that the number varies between one and 
twenty-two and one in thirty-three depending on the amount of overlap between 

26. “Rape in America,” p. 2. 

27. Ibid., p. 15. 

28. The secretary of health and human services, Donna Shalala, praised the poll for 
avoiding a “white male” approach that has “for too long” been the norm in research 
about women. My own view is that the interpretation of the poll is flawed. See the 
discussions in chapters 9 and 11. 

29. Louis Harris and Associates, “The Commonwealth Fund Survey of Women’s Health,” 

p. 20. 

30. Blade, p. 3. 

31. Ibid., p. 6. 

32. Ibid. 

33. Dean Kilpatrick, et al., “Mental Health Correlates of Criminal Victimization: A Ran¬ 
dom Community Survey "Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 53, 6 (1985). 

34. Time, May 4, 1992, p. 15. 

35. Blade, special report, p. 3. 

36. Ibid., p. 3. 

37. Ibid., p. 5. 

38. Ibid., p. 3. 

39. Camille Paglia, “The Return of Carry Nation,” Playboy, October 1992, p. 36. 

40. Camille Paglia, “Madonna I: Anomility and Artifice,” New York Times, December 14, 

41. Reported in Peter Heilman, “Crying Rape: The Politics of Date Rape on Campus,” 
New York, March 8, 1993, pp. 32-37. 

42. Washington Times, May 7, 1993. 

43. Heilman, “Crying Rape,” pp. 32-37. 

44. Ibid., p. 34. 

45. Ibid., p. 37. 



46. Katie Roiphe, The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism (Boston: Little, Brown, 
1993), p. 45. 

47. Blade, p. 13. 

48. Andrea Parrot, Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Assault Prevention Training Manual (Ith¬ 
aca, N.Y.: College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, 1990), p. 1. 

49. Blade, p. 13. 

50. Ibid., p. 14. 

51. Alice Rossi, ed., The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1973), p. 414. 

52. Katie Roiphe, “Date Rape’s Other Victim,” New York Times Magazine, June 13, 1993, 

p. 26. 

53. Ibid., p. 40. 

54. Women’s Studies Network (Internet:, June 14, 1993. 

55. Ibid., June 13, 1993. 

56. See Sarah Crichton, “Sexual Correctness: Has It Gone Too Far?” Newsweek, October 
25, 1993, p. 55. 

57. See Neil Gilbert, “The Phantom Epidemic of Sexual Assault,” The Public Interest, 
Spring 1991, pp. 54-65; Gilbert, “The Campus Rape Scare,” Wall Street Journal, June 
27, 1991, p. 10; and Gilbert, “Examining the Facts,” pp. 120-32. 

58. “Stop It Bitch,” distributed by the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape, 
Berkeley, California. (For thirty dollars they will send you “thirty-four years of re¬ 
search to help refute him [Gilbert].”) See also the Blade, p. 5. 

59. Sheila Kuehl, “Skeptic Needs Taste of Reality Along with Lessons About Law,” Los 
Angeles Daily Journal, September 5, 1991. Ms. Kuehl, it will be remembered, was a 
key figure in disseminating the tidings that men’s brutality to women goes up 40 
percent on Super Bowl Sunday. Some readers may remember Ms. Kuehl as the 
adolescent girl who played the amiable Zelda on the 1960s “Dobie Gillis Show.” 

60. International Crime Rates (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1988), p. 1. 
The figures for 1983: England and Wales, 2.7 per 100,000; United States, 33.7 per 
100,000 (p. 8). Consider these figures comparing Japan to other countries (rates of 
rape per 100,000 inhabitants): 


U.S. 38.1 

U.K. (England and Wales only) 12.1 

(West) Germany 8.0 

France 7.8 

Japan 1.3 

Source: Japan 1992: An International Comparison (Tokyo: Japan Institute for Social 
and Economic Affairs, 1992), p. 93. 

61. “Men, Sex, and Rape,” ABC News Forum with Peter Jennings, May 5, 1992, Tran¬ 
script no. ABC-34, p. 21. 

62. Ibid., p. 11. 

63. Ibid. 

64. Senator Biden, cited by Carolyn Skomeck, Associated Press, May 27, 1993. 

65. “The Violence Against Women Act of 1993,” title 3, p. 87. 

66. Ruth Shalit, “On the Hill: Caught in the Act,” New Republic, July 12, 1993, p. 15. 



67. See ibid., p. 14. 

68. Stephen Donaldson, “The Rape Crisis Behind Bars,” New York Times, December 29, 
1993, p. All. See also Donaldson, “Letter to the Editor” New York Times, August 24, 
1993. See, too, Wayne Wooden and Jay Parker, Men Behind Bars: Sexual Exploitation 
in Prison (New York: Plenum Press, 1982); Anthony Sacco, ed., Male Rape: A Casebook 
of Sexual Aggressions (New York: AMS Press, 1982); and Daniel Lockwood, Prison 
Sexual Violence (New York: Elsevier, 1980). 

Chapter 11: The Backlash Myth 

1. Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (New York: 
Crown, 1991); Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against 
Women (New York: Doubleday, 1992). 

2. Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 19. 

3. Ibid., p. 99. 

4. Faludi, Backlash, p. xxii. 

3. Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 19. 

6. Ibid., p. 4. 

7. Ibid., p. 124. 

8. According to Faludi, “Just when women’s quest for equal rights seemed closest to 
achieving its objectives, the backlash struck it down. . . . The Republican party ele¬ 
vated Ronald Reagan and both political parties began to shunt women’s rights off 
their platforms.” Backlash, p. xix. 

9. Rep. Patricia Schroeder reviewed Backlash for Knight-Rider Newspapers. 1 am quoting 
from the version that appeared in the Austin American Statesmen, Sunday, November 
24, 1991, p. E6. 

10. Paul Berman mentioned “Parisian determinism” during a discussion at an academic 
conference. He had good news for those worried about what may be coming next 
out of Paris: today fashionable French intellectuals are interested in liberalism and 
human rights, with special attention to writings of James Madison and Thomas 

11. Richard Rorty, “Foucault and Epistemology,” in David Couzens Hoy, ed., Foucault: A 
Critical Reader (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), p. 47. 

12. Michael Walzer, “The Politics of Michel Foucault,” in ibid., p. 51. 

13. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, 
ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Random House, 1980), p. 134. 

14. Sandra Lee Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenolgy of Oppres¬ 
sion (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 75. 

15. Ibid., p. 80. 

16. Catharine MacKinnon, “Desire and Power: A Feminist Perspective,” in Cary Nelson 
and Lawrence Grossberg, eds., Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (Chicago: 
University of Illinois Press, 1988), p. 110. 

17. Catharine MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge, Mass.: 
Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 116-17. 

18. Faludi, Backlash, p. xii. 

19. Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 17 

20. Faludi, Backlash, p. 455. 



21. Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 10. 

22. Thomas F. Cash, Diane Walker Cash, and Jonathan W. Butters, “ ‘Mirror, Mirror on 
the Wall. . . ?’ Contrast Effects and Self-Evaluations of Physical Attractiveness,” Per¬ 
sonality and Social Psychology Bulletin 9, no. 3 (September 1983): 354-55. 

23. Ms. Wolf did not speak to the principal author at Old Dominion, Thomas Cash, and 
there is some doubt that she ever saw the article she cites. She says, for example, that 
Cash arrived at his conclusions by studying some of his patients, who, he said, were 
“extremely attractive.” But Cash did not study his patients. At the beginning of the 
article, he and his coauthors clearly state that they used “a sample of fifty-one female 
college students . . . recruited from introductory psychology classes.” Dr. Cash told 
me, “I remember thinking she must be confusing my study with another. I never 
mentioned anything about my patients, and did not study them.” 

24. Wolf, The Beauty Myth, p. 165. There is no “American legal definition of rape.” Each 
state has its own criteria. 

25. Ellen Goodman, “ The Man Shortage’ and Other Big Lies,” New York Times Book 
Review, October 27, 1991, p. 1. 

26. Barbara Lovenheim, letter to the New York Times Book Review, February 9, 1992. 

27. Faludi, Backlash, p. 30. 

28. “Facts About Down Syndrome for Women over 35” (Washington D.C.: National 
Institute of Flealth, 1979), p. 9. 

29. Lovenheim, ibid., p. 30. 

30. Bureau of Census, Current Population Reports, Series P 23, no. 162, June 1989. 
Cited in Barbara Lovenheim, Beating the Marriage Odds (New York: William Morrow, 
1990), p. 34. 

31. Gretchen Morgenson, “A Whiner’s Bible,” Forbes, March 16, 1992, p. 153. 

32. Ibid., p. 152. 

33. Nancy Gibbs, “The War Against Feminism,” Time, March 9, 1992, p. 52. 

34. Ibid. 

35. Cathy Young, “Phony War,” Reason, November 1991, p. 57. 

36. Working Woman, April 1992, p. 104. 

37. Ibid. 

38. Sylvia Nasar, “Women’s Progress Stalled? Just Not So,” New York Times, October 18, 
1992, sec. 3, p. 1. 

39. Diane Ravitch, Youth Policy, June-July 1992, p. 12. 

40. Nasar, “Women’s Progress Stalled?” The article summarizes the recent findings of 
three prominent women economists, Understanding the Gender Gap, by Claudia Gol¬ 
din (Flarvard University); The Economics of Men, Women, and Work, by Francine Blau 
and Marianne Ferber (University of Illinois); and June O’Neill (Baruch College), 
“Women and Wages,” The American Enterprise, November/December 1990, pp. 25- 

41. Faludi, Backlash, p. 364. 

42. Ibid. 

43. These ratios are for median earnings—i.e., the earnings of the male or female in the 
middle of the pack (one-half earn more, one-half earn less). Source: Bureau of 
Census, Current Population Reports, Consumer Income Series P60-184, Money In¬ 
come of Households, Families, and Persons in the United States: 1992, September 1993. 

44. If gender “backlash” is to be inferred from the earnings ratio, it could only have 



happened back in the 1950s and early 1960s: that is the last period in which the 
earnings ratio fell. 

45. See O’Neill, “Women and Wages,” p. 29. Faludi inexplicably objects to such a 
straightforward correction for difference in work weeks, referring to this as “spurious 
data fudging” resulting in an “artificially inflated earnings” ratio. 

46. June O’Neill and Solomon Polachek, “Why the Gender Gap in Wages Narrowed in 
the 1980s,” Journal of Labor Economics 11, no. 1 (January 1993), part 1: 205-28. 
Some economists argue that the anticipation of spending less time in market activities 
than men leads many women to focus their education and training in less remuner¬ 
ative areas, both in secondary and postsecondary education, academic and vocational 
(see, for example, Claudia Goldin and Solomon Polachek, “Residual Differences by 
Sex: Perspectives on the Gender Gap in Earnings,” American Economic Review 77, 
no.2 [May 1987]: 143-51). 

47. This is a theme stressed by Stamford economist Victor Fuchs, Women's Quest for 
Equality (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988). A recent study of 
1972-75 graduates of the University of Michigan Law School, fifteen years after 
graduation, found that one-quarter of the women had at some point worked part- 
time to care for their children, as compared to 0.5 percent of the men. It also found 
that this had a very large effect on subsequent earnings, even after returning to work 
full-time. One of the major reasons appeared to be that such women were far less 
likely to become partners in large law firms: “Fewer than one-fifth [of mothers] with 
extensive part-time work had made partner in their firms 15 years after graduation, 
while more than four-fifths of the mothers with little or no part-time work had made 
partner” (Robert G. Wood, Mary E. Corcoran, and Paul N. Courant, “Pay Differences 
among the Highly Paid: The Male-Female Earnings Gap in Lawyers’ Salaries,’’Journal 
of Labor Economics 11, no. 3 (1993): 417-41. 

48. O’Neill, “Women and Wages,” p. 32. The 86 percent figure standardizes for age and 
region only; the 91 percent figure also standardizes for additional factors. This article 
summarizes for noneconomists such scientific work as O’Neill and Polachek, “Why 
the Gender Gap in Wages Narrowed in the 1980s,” and Claudia Goldin, Understand¬ 
ing the Gender Gap. 

49. O’Neill, “Women and Wages.” 

50. See Shirley M. Tilghman, “Science vs. Women—A Radical Solution,” New York Times, 
January 26, 1993, p. A23. 

51. There is a a good discussion of the problem of women, family, and the workplace in 
Women and Work/Family Dilemma by Deborah Swiss and Judith Walker (New York: 
Wiley, 1993). 

52. “Does the Market for Women’s Labor Need Fixing?” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 
3, no. 1 (Winter 1989): 43-60. 

53. Chronicle of Higher Education, December 1, 1993, p. A9. 

54. American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Eco¬ 
nomic Profession, Newsletter, October 1991. 

55. Faludi, Backlash, p. 322. 

56. Quoted in ibid., p. 313. 

57. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, A Lesser Life: The Myth of Women's Liberation in America (New 
York: William Morrow, 1986), p. 211. 

58. Faludi, Backlash, pp. 312-18. 

59. Ibid., pp. 320-21. 



60. Ibid., p. 321. 

61. Wolf, The Beauty Myth, preface to paperback ed., p. 5. 

62. Naomi Wolf, Fire with Fire (New York: Random House, 1993). 

63. Glamour, November 1993, p. 224. 

64. Ibid., p. 277. 

65. S. Walters, Women’s Studies Network (Internet:, Febru¬ 
ary 2, 1994. 

66. Kay Mussel, Fantasy and Reconciliation: Contemporary Formulas of Womens Romance 
Fiction (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984), p. 164. 

67. Kathleen Gilles Seidel, “Judge Me by the Joy I Bring,” in Dangerous Men and Adven¬ 
turous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of Romance, ed. Jayne Ann Krentz 
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), p. 174. 

68. Louis Harris and Associates, “Commonwealth Fund Survey of Women’s Health” 
(New York: Commonwealth Fund, 1993). I discussed the fund’s questionable find¬ 
ings on abuse in chap. 9. 

69. Ibid., p. 3. 

70. Ibid., p. 37. 

71. Michael Posner, “Survey Shows 4 of 10 Women Depressed,” Reuters, July 14, 1993. 

72. Dallas Morning Star, July 15, 1993. 

73. Ibid. 

74. All the news clippings cited were included in the final report on the survey results in 
the Commonwealth Fund survey of women’s health. See appendix: “Selected Press 

75. Gallup Poll Monthly, March 1992. 

76. San Francisco Chronicle, July 12, 1993, p. B3. The poll “The New Generation Gap: 
Boomers vs. Posties in the ’90s” was carried out by pollster Mark Baldassare. He 
called six hundred adult residents, half men and half women, whose numbers were 
obtained from a computer-generated random sample. 

The University of Montreal psychologist Ethel Roskies sent out a questionnaire to 
1,123 “high-level professional women” in law, medicine, engineering, and account¬ 
ing. She reports that “in all personal psychological measures, the married professional 
with children scored highest. Next was the married professional without children, 
and last, and least content, was the single woman with no children.” She found that 
“single childless women are significantly more depressed, report lower self-esteem, 
and lower life satisfaction than married women with children.” Associated Press, 
Houston Post, November 22, 1992, p. A7. 

77. Questions adapted from the Practice Guideline for Major Depressive Disorders in Adults 
(Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 1993), p. 1. The Merck Manual 
of Diagnosis and Therapy (Rahway, N.J.: Merck, Sharp, and Dohme Research Labora¬ 
tories, 1982), Vol. 1, p. 957, suggests several other criteria for severe depression: 
have you experienced a loss of capacity to experience emotion, or a feeling that the 
world has become colorless, lifeless, and dead? 

78. Lee Robins and Darrel Regier, eds., Psychiatric Disorders in America: The Epidemiologic 
Catchment Area Study (New York: Free Press, 1991), p. 64. The Robins and Regier 
study, funded by NIMH, is one of the most respected in the field of psychiatry. It is 
the source cited by the American Psychiatric Association in its Practice Guideline for 
Major Depressive Disorders in Adults (vol. 150, no. 4 [1993]). 

79. See Karen Bourdon et al., “Estimating the Prevalence of Mental Disorders in U.S. 



Adults from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey,” Public Health Reports 107, 
no. 6 (November-December 1992): 665. According to Robins and Regier, Psychiatric 
Disorders in America, men are at least four or five times more likely than women to 
become alcoholics (p. 85). 

80. Faludi herself is generally distrustful of studies that claim to show that modem 
liberated single women are depressed. Such studies are part of the backlash. See her 
discussion of how the media discourage single women by suggesting that their life¬ 
styles lead to depression. Faludi, Backlash, p. 36. 

81. Ibid., p. 37. 

82. Robins and Regier, Psychiatric Disorders in America, p. 73. 

83. Ibid., p. 72. 

84. Wendy Wood, Nancy Rhodes, and Melanie Whelan, “Sex Differences in Positive 
Well-Being: A Consideration of Emotional Style and Marital Status,” in Psychological 
Bulletin 106, no. 2 (1989): 249. Wendy Wood, in this paper and others, reports on a 
series of studies indicating that women and men have different styles of reporting on 
their emotions: “Women have . . . been found to report more extreme levels of fear, 
sadness, and joy than men” (p. 251). 

85. Mirabella, November 1993, p. 38. Hyperbole on women’s victimization is very much 
in vogue. Mirabella is not alone among fashion magazines in routinely publishing 
articles promoting incendiary feminist advocacy statistics. In the same issue, Mirabella 
called Richard Gelles and Murray Straus “pop psychologists,” attacking them for their 
“dispassionate” (hence unfeeling) research on domestic violence and for their findings 
on battery, which feminists call far too low. Unfortunately, Mirabella and its ilk foster 
misandrism by introducing many a teenager to the resenter mode of male/female 

86. Ms. Futter is leaving Barnard to become president of the American Museum of 
Natural History. 

87. Secretary Reich’s words are found on the first page of the paperback edition of 
Faludi’s Backlash. 

Chapter 12: The Gender Wardens 

1. Nat Hen toff. Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 

p. 1. 

2. Jay Overocker, “Ozzie and Harriet in Hell,” Heterodoxy 1, no. 6 (November 1992): 9. 

3. Ibid. 

4. “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma” (a dialogue between Friedan and de Beau¬ 
voir), Saturday Review, June 14^ 1975, p. 18. As an equity feminist I find much to 
admire in de Beauvoir’s works, but her bland tolerance for authoritarianism is not 
part of it. She was perhaps unduly influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre, joining him in his 
Maoist phase in the seventies. This may help to explain, although it would not excuse, 
her readiness to use state power to force people to live “correct” lives. 

5. Sandra Lee Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppres¬ 
sion (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 5. 

6. Ibid., p. 51. 

7. Ibid., pp. 56, 61. Ms. Bartky is also aware that her ideas about the radical reconstruc¬ 
tion of self and society are not now popular. It does not worry her: “For it reveals the 



extent to which the established order of domination has taken root within our very 
identities.” Femininity and Domination, p. 5. 

8. Alison Jaggar, Feminist Politics and Human Nature (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Little¬ 
field, 1983), p. 44. 

9. Ibid., p. 150. 

10. Marilyn Friedman, “Does Sommers Like Women? More on Liberalism, Gender Hier¬ 
archy, and Scarlett O’Hara,’’Journal of Social Philosophy 21, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 1990): 

11. Gloria Steinem, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (Boston: Little, Brown, 

1992), p. 260. 

12. Jaggar, Feminist Politics and Human Nature, p. 219. 

13. Steinem, Revolution from Within, p. 309. 

14. The theme of “safety” is central for gender feminism. Indeed, a favorite phrase for 
any place where feminists gather is “safe space.” In this misogynist world, the “femi¬ 
nist classroom,” for example, is advertised as a safe space where women can speak 
freely without fear of being humiliated by derisive or brutal males. On the other 
hand, as I tried to show in chapter 6, the feminist classroom can be very unsafe for 
those who are not true believers in gender feminism. 

15. Later expanded and published in book form: Lis Harris, Holy Days: The World of a 
Hasidic Family (New York: Macmillan, 1985), p. 128. 

16. Ibid., p. 129. 

17. Bartky, Femininity and Domination, p. 58. 

18. Christina Sommers, “Feminist Philosophers Are Oddly Unsympathetic to the Women 
They Claim to Represent,” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 11, 1989, p. B3. 

19. Marilyn Friedman, “ They Lived Happily Ever After’: Sommers on Women and 
Marriage,” Journal of Social Philosophy, 21, nos. 2 and 3 (Fall-Winter 1990): 58. 

20. Helen Taylor, Scarlett's Women: “Gone with the Wind ” and Its Female Fans (New 
Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989). 

21. Ibid., p. 130. 

22. Ibid., p. 133. 

23. Friedman, “Does Sommers Like Women?” p. 87. 

24. Chronicle of Higher Education, January 15, 1992, p. A7. 

25. Ibid. 

26. “Men, Sex, and Rape,” ABC News Forum, May 5, 1992. Transcript no. ABC-34, 
p. 9. 

27. Boston Globe, July 30, 1991, p. 54. 

28. Ann Ferguson, Sexual Democracy: Women, Oppression, and Revolution (Boulder, Colo.: 
Westview Press, 1991), p. 207. 

29. Lindsy van Gelder, “Lipstick Liberation,” Los Angeles Times Magazine, March 15, 
1992, p. 30. 

30. Friedman, “Does Sommers Like Women?” p. 87. 

31. Ann Garry, “Pornography and Respect for Women,” in John Arthur, ed., Morality and 
Moral Controversies (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1993), p. 264. 

32. Synopsis on back cover of Seduction by Jayne Ann Krentz. Cited in Jayne Ann Krentz, 
ed., Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of Romance 
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), p. 15. 

33. Facts cited in Cathie Linz, “Setting the Stage: Facts and Figures,” in Krentz, Dangerous 
Men and Adventurous Women, p. 11. 



34. Kathleen Gilles Seidel, “Judge Me by the Joy I Bring,” in ibid., p. 170. 

33. Ibid., p. 171. 

36. Jayne Ann Krentz, “Trying to Tame the Romance,” in Krentz, Dangerous Men and 
Adventurous Women, p. 107. Ms. Krentz also writes under the names of Amanda 
Quick, Jane Castle, and Stephanie James. She has written for Harlequin, Silhouette, 
and Dell. Her books are frequently on the New York Times best-seller list. 

37. Krentz, “Trying to Tame the Romance,” p. 109. 

38. Ibid., pp. 113-14. 

39. New York Times, Sunday, July 25, 1993, p. 17. 

40. Ibid., p. 17. 

41. Ibid. 

42. Pam Houston, “Big Sister Is Watching,” Elle, January 1994, pp. 74-75. 

43. Ibid., p. 75. 

44. See John Leo, “Cultural War at the Whitney,” US. News & World Report, March 22, 
1993; and Carol Strickland, “Politics Dominates Whitney Biennial,” Christian Science 
Monitor, March 26, 1993, p. 10. 

45. New York Times, July 21, 1991. 

46. Ibid. 

47. Pottsville Republican, November 16, 1991. 

48. Nat Hentoff, “A ‘Pinup’ of His Wife,” Washington Post, June 5, 1993, p. A21. 

49. This statue offended several “on the verge” campus groups. The artist had been 
inclusive, but that got her into hot water with some students. The black man had a 
basketball, thus reinforcing the stereotype that all black men are jocks; one Asian- 
looking figure was carrying a violin, thus reinforcing the “model minority” stereotype. 

50. Liza Mundy, “The New Critics,” Lingua Franca 3, no. 6 (September/October 1993): 

51. Ibid., p. 30. 


ABC, 186, 223-24 
Abrams, Mike, 111 

academia, see classroom, feminist; colleges 
and universities; curriculum 
transformation; education; women’s 
studies courses 

academic freedom, 121, 122, 128 
Adelson, Joseph, 143-44, 145 
Adzhikhina, Natalya, 39 
African-American students, self-esteem of, 

Age of Jackson, The (Schlesinger), 84- 

Albrecht, Professor, 102-3 
Alexander, Lamar, 171, 172 
Allure , 265 

Althusser, Louis, 113-14 
American Anorexia and Bulimia 
Association, 12 

American Association of University 
Professors, 116, 242 

American Association of University 

Women (AAUW), 16, 52, 125, 136, 
187, 231, 253 

as activist arm of gender feminism, 141 
1992 meeting of, 35-38 
poll on sexual harassment 
commissioned by, 184-86 
report on gender bias in schools 
commissioned by, 157-81; see also 
Wellesley Report 

self-esteem study commissioned by, 
137-52, 154, 157, 253; see also 
“Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging 

American Council on Education, 125 
American Economic Association, 242 
American People , The (Handlin), 85 
American Philosophical Association, 75 
American Psychiatric Association, 250 
American University, 129 
American Voices , 60-61 



American Woman, The, 147 
Amis, Kingsley, 118 
androgyny, 265 
anger, 19-22, 24-33, 42 
as motif at feminist conferences, 19-21, 

personal horror stories and, 25-29 
Annals of Emergency Medicine, 193, 201-2 
anorexia nervosa, 11-12, 15, 188, 233 
Anrig, Gregory, 180 
Anthony, Susan B., 22, 24, 25, 34, 35, 


Arizona, University of, 81-82, 129, 272 
Arpad, Susan, 89 
art, 54, 56, 62-65, 103 
deemed offensive, 270-73 
ideologically correct, 269-70 
standards of greatness in, 63-65 
Asian children, self-esteem of, 150 
Askey, Richard, 179 
Associated Press, 190 
Association of American Colleges (AAC), 
52, 119, 124-25, 127 
Astin, Alexander, 161 
astronomy, 72 
AT&T, 39 

Atlanta Constitution, 204 
Atlantic, 263-64 
Atlas, Raphael, 36, 37-38 
Augustine, Saint, 227 

Baber, Asa, 255-56 
bachelor’s degrees, 160 
backlash, 18, 20, 24, 26, 45, 81, 116-17, 
131, 227-54 

conspiracy theories and, 227-28, 232 
feminists accused of complicity in, 

lack of reliable statistical evidence for, 

Radcliffe conference on (1992), 231-32 
women’s self-surveillance and, 228, 
229-31, 232 

Backlash (Faludi), 42, 227-29, 232, 234- 
244, 251, 254 
see also Faludi, Susan 
Baer, Sylvia, 86 

Bailey, Susan McGee, 177, 184 
Balch, Steven, 128 
Balk, Julia, 272 
Ballad, Annie, 112 
Bancroft, Lundy, 191 
Barber, James David, 128 

Bard College, 109-10 
Barringer, Felicity, 185 
Bart, Pauline, 20, 222 
Bartky, Sandra Lee, 27, 42, 230-31, 257, 
263-64, 265 
Bass, Alison, 185 
Bates College, 109 
battery, 17, 188-208 
birth defects attributed to, 13-15, 17, 

conceptions of “abuse” in, 197-98 
cross section of statistics on, 192-94 
emergency room admissions and, 201- 

in English and American history, 204, 

Gelles and Straus’s findings on, 194- 
196, 197, 198, 200, 203 
Flarris/Commonwealth survey on, 196- 


intimidation of researchers on, 200, 201 

among lesbians, 199-200 

“normal” men as perpetrators of, 198- 


patriarchy and, 188-89, 194, 199, 200, 

during pregnancy, 13, 195 
“rule of thumb” story and, 203-7 
on Super Bowl Sunday, 15, 189-92, 

women engaging in, 194-95 
Bauer, Dale M., 94-95 
Baumrind, Diana, 144 
Beauty Myth, The (Wolf), 11, 12, 212, 
227-29, 232-34, 242-43, 244, 245, 

Beauvoir, Simone de, 256-57, 259 
Becker, Jerry, 179-80 
Bedard, Marcia, 93 
Beethoven, Ludwig van, 28 
Behind Closed Doors, 192 
Bell, Derrick, 108 
Bell, Janis, 63 
Belz, Herman, 122 
Berek, Peter, 126 
Bergmann, Barbara, 242 
Berman, John, 271 
Berman, Paul, 229 
Bernard, Jessie, 51, 251 
Bemikow, Louise, 55 
Bernstein, Richard, 83 
Biden, Joseph, 193, 195, 201, 212, 221, 



biology, 72 
birth defects: 

battery and, 13-15, 17, 207 
maternal age and, 235-36 
Bittinger, Kathleen, 102 
Blackstone, William, 204, 205, 207 
Blakesiee, Laurie, 272 
Blau, Francine, 239 
Block, Jack, 142-44 
Bloom, Harold, 133 
Bobbitt, John Wayne, 45 
Bobbitt, Lorena, 45 

Boston Globe , 13, 15, 65, 137, 158, 182, 

climate of resentment at, 47-49 
Super Bowl hoax and, 189-90, 191, 

Botstein, Leon, 110 
Bourdon, Karen, 250-51 
Bower, Bruce, 143, 144, 154 
Bowman, Patricia, 25 
Bradlee, Ben, Jr., 47-48 
Brandeis University, 111-12 
Breslau, Naomi, 218 
Brophy, Jere, 165 
BrotherPeace, 193 
Broun, Elizabeth, 270 
Brown, Shawn, 93-94 
Brownmiller, Susan, 243, 244 
Brown University, 133, 145 
Brumberg, Joan, 11-12 
Bryant, Anne, 139, 141, 142, 149, 168, 
186, 187 

Buel, Sarah, 14, 17, 224 
bulimia, 12 

Bunch, Charlotte, 64, 232 

Bureau of Justice Statistics, 209, 210, 223 

business schools, 236 

Butler, Johnnella, 124-25, 130 

call-outs, supposed gender bias and, 162, 
165, 166 

“Call to Action” brochure, 139, 141, 145- 
146, 147-48, 151-52 
Campbell, Patricia, 177 
Carter, Angela, 266 
Cash, Thomas, 233 
Cassais, John, 108 
Cavett, Dick, 28-29 
CBS, 190 

censorship, 255, 263, 268-69, 270-73 
Center for Epidemiologic Studies (CES), 
249, 250-51, 252 

Change, 69-70 

Chicago Tribune, 137, 146, 194 
childbearing, women’s work histories and, 

self-esteem in, 137-52, 154, 157, 253; 
see also “Shortchanging Girls, 
Shortchanging America” 
sexual harassment ascribed to, 46 
Children’s Museum (Denver), 140 
China, respect for Western science in, 83 
Christ, Carol P., 104 
Christian Science Monitor , 194 
Chronicle of Higher Education, 127, 262, 

Civil Rights Commission, U.S., 207 
classroom, feminist, 87-117 
anxiety and rage infused in, 87-88 
blurring of vital distinctions in, 98 
campus behavior resulting from, 109- 

confidentiality rule in, 88-89, 99, 100 
ground rules for, 98-101 
immunity to criticism in, 95, 96-97, 
100, 101-3 

indoctrination in, 95-97 
intolerance resulting from, 107, 108 
non feminist classrooms affected by, 
106-7, 112-16 

objectivity denied in, 97-98, 109 
preparation for world of work and 
culture lacking in, 90-91 
recalcitrant or resistant students in, 91- 
95, 101-3 

recruitment as goal of, 92 
safe atmosphere for open discussion in, 

student complaints about, 94-95, 101- 

worldview in, 96 
click experiences, 54-55, 81 
Clinton, Bill, 81 
CNN, 204 
Cohen, Carl, 94 
Cohen, Muriel, 47, 48 
Colby, Anne, 152 
Colgate University, 272 
collective guilt, 42, 43, 44-47 
children included in, 46 
College Board, 176 
colleges and universities: 

academic freedom endangered in, 121, 
122, 128 



colleges and universities ( cont .) 

faculty appointments in, 119, 126-27, 
129, 133 

feminist control of bureaucracies in, 

118- 19, 136 

gender-feminized, general effect of, 91 
intolerance in, 107-13, 270-73 
percentage of males vs. females in, 160 
SAT scores as predictors of performance 
in, 176-77 

supposed rape crisis at, 212, 218-22 
tenure system in, 242 
see also classroom, feminist; curriculum 
transformation; education; women’s 
studies courses; specific colleges and 

Collier, Michael, 190 
Columbia University, 19, 20, 218-19 
Comins, Catherine, 44 
Commentary, 177 

common law, battery and, 204, 205, 206- 

Commonwealth Fund, 16, 196-98, 216, 

Congress, U.S., 138, 141, 147, 151, 158- 
160, 168, 172, 181, 201, 224, 273 
Connecticut College, 133 
consciousness raising, 23 
in feminist classroom, 88, 89, 90, 92 
conspiracy theories, 227-28, 232 
Constitution, U.S., 61 
Cook, Blanche Wiesen, 20 
Cooner, Liz, 249 
Copernicus, 117 
Cornell University, 127 
Corry, Maureen, 13 
Costrell, Robert, 174 
Council on Foundations, 158 
Courage to Question, The, 131 
Cowboys Are My Weakness (Houston), 269 
Coyner, Sandra, 124-25 
Crosby, Faye, 36-37, 38, 153 
cultural literacy, 61-62 
cultural pluralism, 76, 80-81, 83-86 
culture, as largely male achievement, 54-55 
curriculum transformation, 51-73, 116, 

119- 36 

administrative support for, 109 
appeal of reform vs., 78-79 
arts and, 62-65 

bureaucratic control and, 118-19 
criticism not tolerated in, 131, 132, 

134, 135 

cultural literacy and, 61-62 
disparity of men’s and women’s cultural 
achievements and, 54-55 
faculty hiring process and, 119, 126— 
127, 129 

faculty reeducation and, 121 
financial support for, 53, 82, 119-20, 
121, 124, 127 
history and, 56-62, 68-69 
as intellectual revolution, 51-52 
lack of resistance to, 134-36 
literature and, 64-65 
minority women’s critiques of, 79-80, 

multiculturalism and, 83-86 
opposition to, 128, 131-34 
organizational support for, 124-25, 127 
Parsippany conference on (1993), 54, 
81-86, 92 

phase theories of, 67-70, 121, 123, 


philosophy and, 71, 126 
rationality and, 65-66 
reasonable correction of record vs., 56 
Schmitz’s handbook for, 121 
science and, 83 

standards of greatness and, 63-65 
student evaluations and, 129 
tacit cooperation of government 
personnel in, 130-31 
Wellesley Report and, 173-76 
Curtis, Michael, 263-64 

Daly, Mary, 252 

Damon, William, 145, 152 

“Dateline,” 170-72 

date rape, 44, 47, 218, 220, 234 

Davidson, Terry, 207 

Davis, Angela, 108 

day care, 237 

debating clubs, 175 

Declaration of Independence, 34, 35, 62 
Decter, Midge, 275 
defense guarding, 110 
democracies, 258-60 
respect for people’s preferences in, 

self-surveillance in, 229-30 
depression, 16, 216 

Harris/Commonwealth survey on, 246- 

marriage and, 251-52 
yearly prevalence of, 250 



Derrida, Jacques, 113-14 
desires, “overhauling” of, 257, 259, 263, 
264, 265-68 
Detroit News, 197 
Devore, Adam, 94 
Didion,Joan, 132 
dieting, 228, 229, 231, 233-34 
Digest of Educational Statistics, 161 
Dines, Gail, 193, 222 
Discipline and Punish (Foucault), 229 
divorce, economic effects of, 236 
Dobisky, Frank, 190-91 
Dobisky Associates, 189, 190-91 
doctoral degrees, 160-61 
domestic violence, see battery 
Donaldson, Stephen, 225 
Donner Foundation, 126 
“Doonesbury,” 172 
Down syndrome, 235-36 
Driscoll, Jack, 48 
Duke University, 130 
Dunn, Thomas, 12 
Dworkin, Andrea, 224, 272 
Dziech, Billie, 185 

earnings, gender gap in, 237-42 
eating disorders, 11-12, 15, 188, 233, 269 
Edelman, Lee, 105-6 
Edington, K., 92-93 
education, 50-187, 238-39 
AAUW study on gender bias in, 16, 
157-81; see also Wellesley Report 
appeal of transformationism in, 78-79 
feminist epistemologies and, 74-78, 


indoctrination vs., 96-97 
self-esteem and, 138, 149-51 
surveys on sexual harassment in, 181— 

in U.S. vs. abroad, 163, 179-81 
see also classroom, feminist; colleges 
and universities; curriculum 
transformation; women’s studies 

Educational Testing Service (ETS), 162- 
163, 180 

Education Department, U.S., 159, 160, 

161, 164, 178 
Education Digest, 151 
“Education Is Not Enough,” 202 
Education Week, 182 
elitism, gender feminists charged with, 

Ellman, Mary, 66 
Elshtain, Jean Bethke, 132 
emergency room admissions, battery and, 

Engels, Friedrich, 202 
engineering, gender gap in, 174-75 
Enlightenment, 22-23, 51 
epistemologies, 74-78, 252 
gynocentric, dangers of, 76-77, 78 
standpoint theory and, 74-75 
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), 243-44 
equity feminists, 22, 53, 274 
in academia, 51, 55 
epistemologies and, 77, 78 
gender feminists vs., 134, 135, 230, 237 
rape as viewed by, 224-25 
Erickson, Lois, 114 
“Eurocentrism” charges, 83-84 
Evergreen State College, 125 
Ewing, Charles Patrick, 190 
excellence, male conceptions of, 64-65 
extracurricular activities, 160 

Failing at Fairness (M. and D. Sadker), 


Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 
(FAIR), 189, 191-92 
Faludi, Susan, 42, 45, 158, 212, 223, 
227-29, 234-44, 245, 251, 254, 


earnings disparity cited by, 237-42 
errors attributed to, 234-37, 238-42 
feminist critics derided by, 243-44 
self-surveillance postulated by, 228, 

229, 232 

Family Violence Prevention Fund, 203 
Fanon, Franz, 23, 202 
fantasies, “overhauling” of, 257, 263, 264, 

Fasting Girls (Brumberg), 11-12 
fatherhood, 255-56 
Fay, Elizabeth, 101-2 
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 195 
rape statistics of, 209, 210, 223 
Fee, Elizabeth, 66 
femininity, 230, 231, 234 
Femininity and Domination (Bartky), 257 

college women’s dissociation from, 18 
Old vs. New, 22-25 
see also equity feminists; gender 
feminists; women’s movement; 
specific topics 



Feminism, 79-80 
Feminism and Values, 104 
Feminist Dictionary, 193 
Ferguson, Ann, 52, 92, 265 
Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 175 
Final Report: Faculty Development for 
Effectiveness and Equity in College 
Teaching (M. and D. Sadker), 164 
Final Report: A Study of Sex Equity in 

Classroom Education (Lockheed), 167 
Fink, Laurie, 222 
Finn, Chester, 61 
Fire with Fire (Wolf), 244-45 
Fish, Stanley, 130 
Fisher, Stephen, 103 
Flanders, Laura, 189 
Flitcraft, Anne, 201-2 
Ford Foundation, 53, 82, 116, 124, 125, 
131, 199, 232 
foregone conclusions, 96 
Forster, E. M., 188 
Fortune, 177, 236 

Foucault, Michel, 113-14, 202, 229-30, 
232, 253 

Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth, 128, 131-32, 

Free to Be You and Me (Thomas), 130 
French, Marilyn, 19, 27, 43-44, 45 
Frick, Martha, 139 

Friedan, Betty, 23, 24, 243, 256-57, 274 
Friedlander, Lee, 272 
Friedman, Marilyn, 258-59, 262, 263, 
265, 266 

Fruman, Norman, 113-14 
Fund for the Improvement of Post- 

Secondary Education (FIPSE), 124- 

Futter, Ellen, 253-54 

Gallup polls, 250 
Gandy, Kim, 45 
Gardiner, Linda, 71 
Garnett, P., 167 

Gelles, Richard J., 194-96, 197, 198, 200, 

“Gender Bias in the Prediction of College 
Course Performance” (McCormack 
and McLeod), 177 

Gender Equity in Education Act, 138, 

151, 158-60, 162, 168, 171, 172, 
179, 181, 273 
gender feminists: 

anger theme of, 19-22, 24-33, 42 

disillusioned with classically liberal 
feminism, 22-24 

education transformed by, 50-187; see 
also classroom, feminist; curriculum 
transformation; women’s studies 

epistemologies of, 74-78, 252 
equity feminists vs., 134, 135, 230, 237 
female critics of, 131-33, 243-44 
grass roots constituency lacked by, 18 
minority women’s critiques of, 79-81, 82 
politics of resentment and, 41-49 
rectitude imposed by, 256-73 
self-preoccupation of, 25-29 
see also specific topics 
Genovese, Eugene, 128, 131 
George, Linda, 218 
Gerstel, Naomi, 144 
Gibbs, Nancy, 236 
Gilbert, Neil, 212-13, 222, 224 
Gilligan, Carol, 114, 139, 140, 151-54, 


critics of, 152-54 

“Glasnost in Two Cultures” conference 
(1991), 38-40 
Glass, Ira, 169, 170 
“glass ceiling,” 241 
goddesses, 80 

Goldberg, Edward, 32, 54, 82-83 
Goldberger, Nancy, 154 
Goldsmid, Paula, 134 
Gone with the Wind (Mitchell), 257, 262- 
263, 264, 265, 266 

Goodman, Ellen, 47, 48-49, 201, 234 
“Good Morning America,” 189 
Gordon, Margaret, 217-18 
Gorenberg, Gershom, 268 
Gorov, Lynda, 189-90, 191 
Gould, Virginia, 89-90 
Goya, Francisco de, 270-71 
Greenberg-Lake Associates, 137, 140, 141, 
145, 148, 149, 158, 253 
Greer, Germaine, 23, 24, 243, 244 
Griffith, Elisabeth, 35 
Grimk£ sisters, 22 
Groff, April, 217 
guilt, see collective guilt 
Gurevich, David, 39, 40 
Guy-Sheftall, Beverly, 81, 82, 131 
gynocentrism, 21-22, 24 

Haack, Susan, 75-76, 78, 132 
Flague, Rebecca, 132 



Handlin, Oscar, 84-85 
intellectual, 116 
see also sexual harassment 
Hardin, Paul, 272 

Harding, Sandra, 66, 72-73, 81, 83, 109, 

Harris, Lis, 261 

Louis Harris and Associates polls, 16 
on battery, 196-98 
on rape, 209-10, 216-17, 223 
on sexual harassment, 184-86 
on women’s well-being, 246-54 
Hart, Heather, 111-12 
Harter, Susan, 143-44 
Hartung, Beth, 93 
Harvard Crimson, 25-26 
Harvard University, 112 
Harward, Donald, 109 
Hasidic women, 261 
Hawkins, Jim, 128-29 
Heilbrun, Carolyn, 19-21, 22, 45, 


Held, Virginia, 26, 75 
Heilman, Peter, 218-19 
Henry Ford Hospital (Detroit), 201 
heterosexuality, disapproval of, 112 
Hewlett, Sylvia Ann, 131, 243-44 
hierarchial approaches, 64-65 
Hill, Anita, 25 
Hindman, James, 123-24 
Hirsch, Barton J., 143 
Hiscock, Philip, 204-5 
history, 54, 56-62, 97 
McIntosh’s phases and, 68-69 
revision of, 57-58, 59-62 
role of men vs. women in, 56-57, 58- 

social vs. political, 57 
Hitchcock, Alfred, 105, 106 
Hoeffler, Lois, 249, 252-53 
Hogan, Candice Taylor, 36 
Hohler, Bob, 191, 192 
Holtby, Winifred, 19, 24 
House Judiciary Committee, 224 
housewives, 242, 256-57 
Houston, Pam, 269 

“How Schools Shortchange Girls,” 157- 

see also Wellesley Report 
How to Make the World a Better Place 
for Women in Five Minutes a Day, 


Hughes, Donna, 111 
humor, 28-29, 130, 255 
Hunt, Richard, 33 

immigrant experiences, 84-85 
immunology, 72 

In a Different Voice (Gilligan), 152 
incest, 100 

indignation, righteous or moral, 41-42 

all teaching viewed as, 95-96, 97-98 
normal education vs., 96-97 
intellectual harassment, 116 
interior disciplines, theory of, 229-30, 

International Assessment of Educational 
Progress (1AEP), 162-63 
International Crime Rate, 223 
“In the Eye of the Storm” conference 
(1992), 231-32 
Ireland, Patricia, 13, 42-43, 45 
Iroquois, 60-61 
Isaac, Nancy, 15, 190 
“It’s All in What You Ask,” 119 

Jacobsen, Carol, 272 
Jaggar, Alison, 23-24, 51-52, 258, 259 
Jane Eyre (Bronte), 237-38 
Japan, math achievement in, 179-80 
Jardine, Alice, 20-21, 25-26 
Jefferson, Thomas, 62 
Jennings, Peter, 223 
Johns Hopkins University, 193 
Johnson, Mary, 248-49, 250 
Jones, M. Gail, 167 
Jong, Erica, 243, 244, 275 
Journal of Educational Measurement, 177 
Journal of the American Medical Association, 
201, 202 
Judaism, 261 

Justice Department, U.S., 192, 195 
rape statistics of, 209, 210, 223 

Kaminer, Wendy, 275 
Kanin, Eugene, 217 
Katz, Janet, 190 
Kauffman, Linda, 39 
Keena, Heather, 102 
Keller, Evelyn Fox, 71-72 
Kennedy, Edward, 159, 201 
Keohane, Nannerl, 232 
Kerby, Phil, 255 
Khouri, Callie, 155 



Kilpatrick, Dean, 210, 215-16, 217, 223, 

King, Dixie, 106 
Kirwan, William, 119-20 
Klein, Andrew, 198-99 

as act of aggression, 66 
feminist epistemologies and, 74-78, 

male vs. female ways of, 175 
“separate” vs. “connected,” 67 
Koch, Ed, 108 

Kolodny, Annette, 29, 81-82, 86, 129 
Koppel, Ted, 186 

Koss, Mary, 210-15, 217, 222, 223-24, 

Kramer, Rita, 177 
Krentz, Jayne Ann, 267-68 
Kuehl, Sheila, 189, 190, 191-92, 203-4, 

Labor Bureau, 236 
Lamm, Richard, 128 
Landers, Ann, 12 
Lasch, Christopher, 153-54 
law degrees, 238 
Lee, Denise, 45 

Lefkowitz, Mary, 131, 132, 275 
Lehman, Betsy, 48 
Lehrman, Karen, 90, 275 
Leo, John, 175-76, 223 
Lemer, Gerda, 51, 55, 69 
lesbians, 37, 265 
battery among, 199-200 
Lessing, Doris, 131, 132, 133 
Levin, Margarita, 73 
Levin, Richard, 133-34 
Lewis, Jennifer, 112 
LeWitt, Sol, 270 
“Lifetime Magazine,” 186 
Lindbergh, Anne Morrow, 59-60 
Lindbergh, Charles, 59 
Lindsey, Michael, 191, 192, 208 
Lingua Franca, 271-72 
linguistic reform, 50 
linguistic reversal, 112 
Lionhearted, 110-11 
Lipset, Seymour Martin, 128 
“lipstick lesbians,” 265 
Lipsyte, Robert, 189, 190 
literature, 54, 56, 61 

standards of greatness in, 64-65 
Lockheed, Marlaine, 167 

logic, 65-66, 71 
Longenecker, Marlene, 124-25 
Los Angeles Daily Journal, 222 
Los Angeles Times, 158 
Louis, Deborah, 12-13 
Lovenheim, Barbara, 234-36 
Lowe, Miss (teacher), 170-71 
Ludington, Sybil, 58 
Lukerman, Fred, 114, 115 
Lutz, Frank, 61-62 
Lyle, Katy, 181 

McClary, Susan, 28 
McClintock, Barbara, 72 
McCormack, Robert, 177 
McDowell, Jeanne, 14 
McGrory, Brian, 48 
McGrory, Mary, 194 
McIntosh, Peggy, 62, 65, 67-69, 79, 81, 
118-19, 120, 121, 123, 127 

Wellesley Report and, 173-74, 175-76 
McKee, Alice, 141, 158, 185 
MacKinnon, Catharine, 25, 45, 66, 210, 
223-24, 231, 272 
McLeod, Mary, 177 
McNaron, Toni, 117 
“MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour,” 39 
Maguigan, Holly, 207 
Mahler, Gustav, 28 
Mann, Judy, 154-55, 201 
March of Dimes, 13-15, 17, 201, 207 
Marcus, Jane, 20 
Marcus, Ruth Barcan, 132, 135 
Marcuse, Herbert, 23, 202 
Marks, Elaine, 64 
marriage, well-being and, 251-52 
Martin, Amanda, 110-11 
Martin, Del, 206-7 
Martinka, Laurie, 47 
Marx, Karl, 23, 202, 229 
Maryland, University of, 44-45, 119-20, 
121-22, 127 

master’s degrees, 160-61, 238 
Masters, Kim, 45 
mathematics, 71 

denigration of vertical approaches to, 

gender gap in, 158, 160, 161, 162-63, 
174-75, 178, 180 

Japanese children’s achievements in, 

SAT scores in, 176-77, 178 
Mattheis, Floyd, 179, 180 



May, Alberta, 130 

medical degrees, 238 

Mednick, Martha, 153 

Meeting at the Crossroads (Gilligan), 154 

Meizlish, Deborah, 94 

Memphis State University, 98-99 

menstruation, 103-4 

Merkowitz, David, 161 

Miami University, 94-95 

Michigan, University of, 93-94, 272 

Mickley, Diane, 12 

Middle Tennessee State University, 122- 

Mikulski, Barbara, 147, 159 
Mill, John Stuart, 259 
Millett, Kate, 23 
Millican, Michael, 108 
Mills College, 36, 91 

Minnesota, sexual harassment policies for 
children in, 46 

Minnesota, University of, 91, 98-99, 104, 
113-15, 129 

complaints about courses at, 102-3 
rape crisis center at, 220-21 
Scandinavian studies affair at, 114-15 
Minnich, Elizabeth, 58, 63-64, 65, 79, 
81, 86, 120 

Mirabella, 193, 200, 253 
Mischler, William, 114, 115 
M ismeasure of Woman, The (Tavris), 152- 


battery and, 199 

rape as manifestation of, 222-23, 225, 

Mitchell, Linda, 189, 191-92 

Mitchell, Maria, 58 

Modem Language Association, 116 

Montreal, University of, 26 

Moore, Dennis Damon, 127 

moral reasoning, 152-54 

Morgenson, Gretchen, 236 

Morning After, The (Roiphe), 214, 219 

Moses, Yolanda, 76, 80 

Mother Jones, 90 

Mother self (Rabuzzi), 26-27 

Mott, Lucretia, 33 

Mount Holyoke College, 91, 126 

Moving into Adolescence (Simmons), 144 

Ms., 54 

rape survey conducted by, 210-15, 
217, 222, 223-24 
Ms. Foundation, 136 

“Take Our Daughters to Work Day” 
sponsored by, 154-56 
Mullen, Patricia, 114, 115 
multiculturalism, 76, 80-81, 83-86 
Mundy, Liza, 271-72 
Munson, Lynne, 103 
Murdoch, Iris, 131, 132 
Murphy, Eddie, 111-12 
music, 28, 62 

Musil, Caryn McTighe, 53, 124-25, 127, 

Mussell, Kay, 245-46 
Muybridge, Eadweard, 270 

Naked Maja, The (Goya), 270-71 
Narbikova, Valerya, 40 
Nasar, Sylvia, 238-39, 242 
National Assessment of Education 
Progress Tests (NAEP), 160 
National Association of Scholars (NAS), 
128, 129, 131 

National Center for Health Statistics, 12 
National Coalition Against Domestic 
Violence, 193-94, 195-96 
National Council for Research on Women, 
116, 159-60, 231 

National Council on Self-Esteem, 140 
National Education Association, 93 
National Institute of Mental Health 
(NIMH), 194, 250-51, 252 
National Lesbian Convention, 30 
National Organization of Women (NOW), 
45, 136, 181, 182-83 
National Women’s Studies Association 
(NWSA) 51 

1992 conference of, 29-33, 53, 79, 91- 

National Women’s Study, 210, 215-16, 
217, 223 

Native Americans, 60-61, 80 
NBC, 170-72, 190, 191 
NEA Today, 146 
Nebraska, University of, 271 
“New Agenda of Women for Higher 
Education, The,” 125 
New Amazons, 40 
New Feminism, see gender feminists 
New Hampshire, University of, 115-16 
New Jersey Project, 54, 66, 82-83 
Newsweek, 212, 237 
New York, 218-19 
New Yorker, 133, 261 
New York Review of Books, 132 



New York State Education Department, 140 
New York Times, 20, 28-29, 80, 83, 137, 
139, 143, 152, 158, 185, 189, 193, 
225, 234, 238-39, 268, 270 
New York Times Book Review, 234-36 
New York Times Magazine, 222 
“Nightline,” 186 
Nikolayeva, Olesya, 39 
1984 (Orwell), 97-98 
North Carolina, University of, 272 
Northwestern, 103 
Nye, Andrea, 24 
Nyhan, David, 48 

Oakland Tribune, 190 
Oberlin College, 134 

objectivity, denial of possibility of, 97-98, 

Office of Educational Research and 
Improvement (OER1), 178 
Old Dominion University, 189, 190, 192, 

Old Feminism, see equity feminists 
Olenick, Michael, 102 
Olsen, Tillie, 89 
O’Neill, June, 239, 241 

assumptions about, in feminist 
classroom, 99 

epistemic advantage supposedly 
conferred by, 74-75 
Ortiz, Bonnie, 270 
Orwell, George, 97-98, 259 
Ozick, Cynthia, 131, 132, 133 

Package, Anne, 47 
Paffenroth, Kim, 107 

Paglia, Camille, 133, 134, 218, 222, 264- 
265, 274 
Paley, Grace, 39 
Palmer, Thomas, 65, 185 
Parade, 154-55 
Parrot, Andrea, 220 
patriarchy, 242-43, 262 
battery and, 188-89, 194, 199, 200, 


disdain for hapless victims of, 256-58 
rape associated with, 223, 225 
self-surveillance in, 230, 231 
struggle against, in feminist classroom, 

88, 89, 91, 95, 96, 100 
Pauley, Jane, 170-72 
PBS, 168-69, 170 

pedagogy, see classroom, feminist; 

curriculum transformation; education 
Pennsylvania State College, 110-11 
Pennsylvania State University, 270-71 
Peters, Regina, 112 
Petersen, Anne, 144-45 
pharmacy, 238-39 
Phi Deltan Kappan, 163, 164 
Phillips, Stone, 170, 172 
philosophy, 126 
classical, 71 

feminist epistemologies and, 74-78, 


of science, 71-73 
Piercy, Marge, 268-69 
Pittsburgh, University of, 272 
Plato, 41 

Pleck, Elizabeth, 205-6 
Pogash, Carol, 237 
Pointer, The, 165-66 
political correctness, 253-54, 274 
satirization of, 110-11 
Pollitt, Katha, 214 
Popper, Sir Karl, 96 
pregnant women, battery of, 13, 195 
Princeton University, 219 
prison rape, 225 

Psychiatric Disorders in America, 250, 251 
psychological abuse, 216 
Psychological Bulletin, 251-52 

Quindlen, Anna, 201, 253 

Rabuzzi, Kathryn Allen, 26-27 
racism, coupling of sexism and, 99, 108 
Racism and Sexism, 108 
Ramstad,Jim, 212 

rape, 55, 88, 100, 188, 209-26, 262-63 
all men viewed as capable of, 44-45 
allocation of public funds related to, 

as civil rights issue, 224 
as crime of gender bias, 224, 225 
date, 44, 47, 218, 220, 234 
expanded definition of, 211, 212-16, 

gender feminists’ agenda and, 222-23 
government statistics on, 210-11, 223 
Harris poll on, 209-10, 216-17, 223 
as manifestation of misogyny, 222-23, 
225, 226 

Ms. Report on, 210-15, 217, 222, 223- 



in prison, 225 

researchers generating low numbers for, 

supposed crisis of, on college campuses, 
212, 218-22 

violence in America society and, 223, 

rape crisis centers, 219, 220-21 
rationality, 65-66, 71 
Ravitch, Diane, 61, 171-72, 238, 


Rawlings, Gail, 221 
Reason, 237 
Reich, Robert, 254 
religious fundamentalism, 260-61 
Removing Bias, 130 
Rendell, Steven, 191 
Renzetti, Claire, 199-200 
“Report to the Professions,” 89 
resentment, 41-49 
climate of, at Boston Globe, 47-49 
collective guilt and, 42, 43, 44-47 
victimization feelings and, 42 
Reuters, 248 

Review of Research in Education, 164, 166 
Revolution from Within (Steinem), 11, 12, 

Richards, Ann, 33, 147 
Richards, Janet Radcliffe, 27 
righteous indignation, 41-42 
Ringle, Ken, 15, 190-91, 192, 208 
Robison, Chris, 271 
Robson, Philip, 142 

Roe, Sam, 213, 214-15, 217, 218, 219- 
221, 224 

Roiphe, Katie, 214, 219, 222, 274-75 
role models, 59, 132 
romance, 257, 259, 262-63, 264, 265- 

romance novels, 245-46, 267-68 
Romer, Roy, 139 
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 20 
Rorty, Richard, 229 
Rose, Hilary, 74-75 
Rosenstone, Professor, 94 
Rosser, Sue, 72 

Rothenberg, Paula, 32, 66, 81, 82, 86, 

108, 134 

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 153 
Ruddick, Sarah, 20 
“rule of thumb” story, 203-7 
Russia, women poets and novelists from, 

Rutgers University, 88, 89, 90, 98-99 
Ruthchild, Geraldine, 55 

Sadker, Myra and David, 139, 161-62, 
163-66, 168-73 

data-gathering techniques of, 164-65, 

media appearances of, 168-69, 170- 
171, 172-73 
Sandler, Bernice, 46 
San Francisco Chronicle, 158, 197, 250 
Santa Monica City College, 128-29 
Sartre, Jean-Paul, 23, 27 
Sattel, Sue, 46 
Saxonhouse, Arlene, 94 
scare quotes, 66 
Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr., 84-85 
Schmitz, Betty, 119, 120-21, 122, 125, 

Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), 176-78, 


schools, see classroom, feminist; colleges 
and universities; curriculum 
transformation; education; women’s 
studies courses 

Schroeder, Patricia, 138, 159, 162, 201, 229 
Schuster, Marilyn R., 69, 81, 96, 109, 116 
Schuster, Sharon, 139, 140, 141, 149, 

157, 177-78 

science, 64, 66, 136, 176, 180 
challenge to objectivity of, 109 
denigration of vertical approaches to, 

gender feminist critique of, 71-73, 83 
gender gap in, 158, 160, 161, 174-75, 

women’s supposed epistemic advantage 
in, 74-75 
Science, 179, 180 
Science News, 143, 154 
Scruton, Roger, 96 
Scully, Diana, 44 

Seidel, Kathleen Gilles, 245-46, 267 
self-esteem, 16, 137-56, 181, 247 
AAUW study on, 137-52, 154, 157, 

253; see also “Shortchanging Girls, 
Shortchanging America” 
academic performance and, 149-51 
books on, 140 
concept of, 142 
scientific study of, 142-43 
“Take Our Daughters to Work Day” 
and, 154-56 



Seligman, Daniel, 177 
Senate, U.S., 25 

Seneca Falls convention (1848), 33-35 
Seventeen , 181-84 
Sewall, Gilbert, 61 

sex/gender feminism, see gender feminists 
sex objects, men vs. women as, 264-65 
sexual desire, 231 
sexual harassment, 47 
charged in academia, 93-94, 114-16, 

defense guarding and, 110 
Harris poll on, 184-86 
by juveniles, 46 
Wellesley study on, 181-84 
sexuality, 46, 112, 257, 262-63, 264-65 
Sexual Personae (Paglia), 133 
Sexual Politics (Millett), 23 
Shakespeare, William, 133-34 
Shalala, Donna, 248, 249, 254 
Sharp, Patricia, 110 
Sheffield, Carole J., 87-88 
Shoenberg, Nara, 213, 214-15, 217, 218, 
219-21, 224 

“Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging 
America,” 137-52, 154, 157, 253 
AAUW promotion of, 139-40, 141, 

African-Americans’ responses in, 149- 

congressional response to, 138, 151 
critical responses to, 140, 142-45 
dubious aspects of, 138, 145-51 
hard data for, 141-42, 145, 148 
media response to, 137, 140, 146 
questions asked in, 145-46 
summary of findings in, 141 
siblings, violence among, 194 
Silva, Donald, 115-16 
Silver, Brenda, 21 
Simmons, Roberta, 143-44, 145 
Simon, Rita, 132 
Simpson, Allen, 115 
SLOPs (self-selected listener opinion 
polls), 183-84 
Smeal, Eleanor, 30, 31, 42 
Smith, Barbara, 81 
Smith, Beverly, 81 
Smith, Tom W., 183, 186 
Smith, William Kennedy, 25 
Smith College, 36-38, 60, 91 
Snowe, Olympia, 159 
social sciences, 54, 56, 59, 61 

Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP), 

Sommers, Fred, 128 
Sommers, Tamler, 237-38 
Sontag, Susan, 132 
“Sonya Live,” 204 

“Southern Women: Black and White,” 89- 

Sowell, Thomas, 98 
Spiller, Hortense, 40 
sports, 160 

standpoint theory, 74-75 

Stanton, Domna, 40 

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 22, 24, 25, 33, 

34, 35, 77, 221 
Stark, Evan, 201-2 
Stein, Nan, 46, 181-84, 186 
Steindam, Sharon, 168-69, 171 
Steinem, Gloria, 11, 12, 21, 22, 146-47, 
149, 154-55, 188-89, 210, 259, 

260, 261 

Steinfels, Peter, 80 
Steinmetz, Suzanne K., 200 
Stevenson, Harold, 151, 179, 180, 181 
Stiles, Joan, 191 

Stimpson, Catharine, 21, 39-40, 66, 69- 

Storin, Matt, 48 
Stratton, Peter, 107-8 
Straumanis, Joan, 104' 

Straus, Murray A., 194-96, 197, 198, 

200, 203 

Strauss, Richard, 28 
Student Body, The (Balk), 272 
Stumhofer, Nancy, 270-71 
suicide, 161 

Super Bowl Sunday, battery on, 15, 189- 

Takaki, Ronald, 83-86, 108 
“Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” 154- 

Tal, Kali, 100-101 
“Talk of the Nation,” 168-69, 170 
Tavris, Carol, 152-53 
Taylor, Harriet, 22, 259, 262-63 
Taylor, Humphrey, 247, 249, 252-53 
teacher attention, 162, 163-68 
academic achievement and, 165, 166, 167 
lack of scholarly articles on, 163-64 
teaching, viewed as form of 

indoctrination, 95-96, 97-98 
Tennessee Board of Regents, 122, 124 



textbooks, 108 

for women’s studies courses, 79-80, 
87-88, 104, 203 
Themstrom, Abigail, 107 
Themstrom, Stephan, 85, 86 
thinking, vertical vs. lateral, 67 
Thirty-Nine Steps, The, 105, 106 
Thomas, Clarence, 25 
Thomas, Dawn, 165-66 
Thomas, Mario, 130, 155 
Thought and Action, 93 
Tiger, Lionel, 46-47 
Tikkun, 268 

Time, 13, 14, 158, 193, 198, 201, 204, 
207, 217, 236 
Tobin, K., 167 
Tokyo University, 179 
Toledo Blade, 213, 214-15, 217, 218, 
219-21, 224 
Tolstaya, Tatyana, 40 
transformationism, see curriculum 
Transformations, 86 
Trebilcot, Joyce, 50, 66, 92, 265 
Trudeau, Garry, 172 
Truely, Walteen Grady, 159 
Tufts University, 105-6 
Tush, Susan, 89-90 
“20/20,” 45, 244 

UCLA Higher Education Research 
Institute, 160-61 

Understanding Sexual Violence (Scully), 44 

Uprooted, The (Handlin), 84 

US. News & World Report, 175-76 

Vance, Carol, 272 

Van Dyne, Susan R., 69, 81, 96, 109, 


Van Gelder, Lindsy, 265 
Vanity Fair, 45 
Vassar College, 44, 104, 112 
Vaughan, Hester, 35 
Vendler, Helen, 135 
veterinary medicine, 238-39 
victimhood, 42, 88, 89, 244-45 

of American society, 223, 225-26 
domestic, see battery 

Violence Against Women Act (1993), 212, 
221, 224-25 

Violent Betrayal (Renzetti), 199-200 
Virginia Polytechnic, 130 

Virginia Slims polls, 237 
Vitz, Paul, 61 

Walker, Lawrence, 152 
Walker, Lenore, 189, 191, 192 
Wall Street Journal, 197 
Walters, Barbara, 244, 245 
Walters, Suzanna, 245 
Walz, Evelyn, 249 
Walzer, Michael, 230 
war, 56, 58-59 

War Against Women, The (French), 19, 27 
Ward, Janie Victoria, 150, 154 
Washington, Martha, 59 
Washington Post, 15, 190-91, 194, 197, 

Washington State Board of Education, 


Wattenberg, Daniel, 45 
Weight Watchers, 229, 233, 258 
Weiner, Jerry, 186 

well-being, Harris/Commonwealth survey 
on, 246-54 
Wellesley College, 91 
Wellesley College Center for Research on 
Women, 16, 127, 231 
harassment survey of, 181-84 
Wellesley Report, 157-81 
AAUW promotion of, 158 
attention gap claimed in, 162, 163-68 
bureaucratic changes recommended in, 

congressional response to, 158-60, 
168, 181 

data contradictory to findings of, 160- 
161, 162-63, 165, 167, 177, 178 
McIntosh’s contributions to, 173-74, 

media response to, 158 
Ravitch’s remarks on, 171-72 
Sadkers’studies and, 161-62, 163-66, 

SAT scores and, 176-78 
traditional curriculum denigrated in, 

Whitehead, Caroline, 14, 17 
Whitney Museum, 269-70 
“Wife-Battering in Nineteenth-Century 
America” (Pleck), 205-6 
William Paterson College, 134 
Williams, Sue, 269 
Winfrey, Oprah, 172 
Withers, Josephine, 45 



Wolf, Naomi, 11, 12, 28-29, 153, 212, 
223, 227-29, 232-34, 242-43, 
244-45, 258, 264 
Wolff, Cynthia, 131 
Wollstonecraft, Mary, 22 
Women: A Feminist Perspective, 87-88, 203 
women’s colleges, 36 
women’s movement: 
beginnings of, 33-35 
exclusion of men from, 36, 37-38 
see also equity feminists; feminism; 
gender feminists; specific topics 
Women’s Research and Education 
Institute, 147 

Women’s Review of Books, 117, 133 
women’s shelters, 202 
women’s studies courses, 50-52, 92, 106, 
110, 125, 131, 133, 134 
academic vs. unscholarly, 89-90 
“feel good” spirit of, 100 
general effect of, 89 
hostile male students in, 93 

menstruation as theme in, 103-4 
power wielded by professors of, 108-9, 

rules of conduct for, 100-101 
Rutgers model for, 88, 89, 90 
student complaints about, 102-3, 107- 

textbooks for, 79-80, 87-88, 104, 


Women’s Ways of Knowing, 67, 252 
Wood, Wendy, 144, 152, 185 
Woolf, Virginia, 57 
Wooster College, 107-9 
Working Woman, 235, 237 

Year Three: Final Report, Promoting 

Effectiveness in Classroom Instruction 
(M. and D. Sadker), 164, 166 
Young, Cathy, 214, 237, 275 
Young, Iris, 24 

Ziltzer, Andrea, 13